Bill Belichick has been noticeable in his attire over the last two weeks, and not just because of his signature hoodie look. While just about every coach that you saw on Sunday was sporting the ubiquitous camouflage outfit and/or headset, Belichick was wearing a traditional blue Patriots hoodie on Sunday. [note: an image search shows that every other coach has worn them at least once over the last two weeks, some just wearing the headset on Sunday, like Andy Reid and Gary Kubiak].
Mike Reiss made this observation last week:
While most other head coaches either wore camouflage headsets or sweatshirts on the sideline during Week 9 games as part of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” campaign, Belichick did not. The coach who has made the cut-sleeves gray hoodie a fashion statement in New England did his part by putting an NFL-themed pin about halfway down the left side of his plain blue Patriots light jacket. When I see things like that, I often wonder the reaction of the folks at NFL headquarters, and also how Belichick — a big military supporter — seems to take some pleasure in being a nonconformist.
I doubt that it is an accident. What a clothing choice should not do is lead you to question Belichick in this case about his support of individual military members. (Run a search of terms like “Belichick” and “camo” or “military” on your social media of choice if you doubt this is happening). We’ve swung a little too far if we are the equivalent of the “I didn’t get a harrumph out of that guy” scene from Blazing Saddles, when it comes to throwing on a piece of clothing to show support, rather than providing something more meaningful.
Belichick grew up the son of a Naval Academy coach and recruiter. He donated his prized library back to the Academy, where it is housed in Annapolis. The Wall Street Journal had a piece on him being a military history buff. He’s been prominent in the past and was spotted with a “Don’t Tread on Me” shirt last offseason.
[Update: Here is WEEI discussing Belichick and his potential motivations this morning]
What we don’t know is his particular motivation in this case. I think it’s fair to look at the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign with a fair amount of skepticism as a PR move. Just a few weeks ago, Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake released their report about the “Pay for Patriotism” going on between the Defense Department and professional sports teams. Plenty have written about how patriotism shouldn’t be a marketing gimmick.
The merchandising of the patriotism here is also at issue. Go to NFL Shop and you will find 336 separate items for sale, including much of the merchandise being showcased by other coaches, with a keyword search “Salute to Service”.
According to NFL.com, all proceeds are donated to military-related charities:
Supporting the military is part of the fabric of the NFL. This support takes place both at home and abroad, with NFL players and coaches traveling overseas to salute the troops, as well as with team recognition of our servicemen and women through the Salute to Service campaign.
Through its long standing partnerships and support from our 32 teams, the NFL takes pride in supporting military personnel and remains committed to raising awareness for the sacrifices they make on our behalf. All proceeds from the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign are donated to the NFL’s three military appreciation nonprofit partners: USO, Pat Tillman Foundation, and Wounded Warrior Project.
And then there’s the separate issues of Belichick’s disagreement with the league over the handling of things like “Deflategate.” Belichick is clearly running counter to the rest of the coaches and the league marketing establishment here. Maybe he will provide a strong statement as to what that particular motivation is. It might be worth actually listening to, rather than questioning someone’s patriotism because they aren’t parroting the corporate line.