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Patriots’ Belichick calls for US action against Turkey, Azerbaijan for 'unprovoked and deadly attacks on Armenians'

By NICK O'MALLEY | | Published: November 18, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — In his two decades as head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick’s usual strategy at press conferences has involved avoiding headline-worthy quotes with ninja-like dexterity. This is the guy famous for “Do your job” and “It is what it is.”

So it certainly raised eyebrows Wednesday when Belichick went out on a limb to call for the United States government to take action against Turkey and Azerbaijan for what he called “for their unprovoked and deadly attacks on Armenians.”

This is miles away from “We’re on to Cincinnati.”

So, how did we get to Belichick making that statement?

It started with a question about Belichick’s reaction to acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller quoting Belichick in a letter sent out to all Department of Defense employees. In the letter, Miller referenced Belichick’s mantra of “Do your job” while also calling him an “incomparable football coach.”

Belichick said that he was “flattered” by the reference.

“When you consider the type of leadership that he’s shown throughout his career, serving our country, it really means a lot," Belichick said.

This was typical Belichick, the son of a longtime Navy assistant who has routinely spoken out in support of those in the American armed services. But then, Belichick went in an unexpected direction.

“I’ll just say, while we’re on the subject," Belichick said. "I read his point about combating traditional threats and I couldn’t help think what we’ve seen from other countries on the world, and hope that our country will take action against Turkey and Azerbaijan for their unprovoked and deadly attacks on Armenians.

“We’ve seen it, when humanitarian crisis and things like that routinely go unpunished, that they just continue to happen," he continued. "I hope that we can put a stop to that.”

This represented a tremendous break from the norm for Belichick, who typically carries a strong “stick to football” mentality when it comes to press conferences.

Belichick comments centered around the fighting that has escalated between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the last month. As explained in this piece from the New York Times summarizing the conflict, the two countries have been at odds for decades. But in late September, fighting over the area of Nagorno-Karabakh has resulted in the worst violence in the area since the 1990s. According to the Times, the area is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has a population comprised of ethnic Armenians. Azerbaijan has the backing of Turkey in the conflict, hence Belichick’s referencing the country in his comments.

However, it is not the first time Belichick has stepped out to show his support for the Armenian people. During the Patriots' visit to the White House in April 2015 — almost a century after the beginning of the Armenian Genocide that resulted in an estimated 1.5 million deaths — Belichick wore a pin with the Armenian flag.

Belichick himself is of Croatian descent. However, his right-hand man, Berj Najarian, is of Armenian descent. Najarian also wore an Armenian flag pin along with Belichick during that White House visit. At the time, then-President Barack Obama had yet to acknowledge the expulsion and killing of Armenians from Turkey during the fall of the Ottoman Empire as a genocide. It wasn’t until 2019 that the United States government officially acknowledged the Armenian Genocide as an act of Congress.

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