When Bill Belichick shook hands with President Obama in April, Belichick did so with an Armenian flag pin on his lapel.
We explained at the time that it was in remembrance of the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman government. The 100th anniversary of the slaughter’s beginning was being recognized that week. Belichick wore the pin at the request of Berj Najarian, the Patriots director of football/head coach administration. Najarian is as close as anyone to Belichick, professionally and personally since they came together to the Patriots from New York in 2000.
Najarian, in an appearance at St. James Men’s Club in Watertown, Mass., detailed how Belichick came to be wearing the pin that day. Najarian also related his brief but bold comments to Obama about the president’s failure to uphold a campaign promise and label the slaughter as genocide. Najarian’s grandfather, Papken Kechichian, was a survivor of the Armenian genocide.
“It was no-brainer,” Najarian, 45, said of his decision to ask Belichick to put on the pin. “He knew the pin, and recognized it. I’ve told him about my grandfather, and my history here in Watertown, Camp Hayastan and all.”
When Najarian met Obama in the receiving line, Najarian says he expressed hope that Obama would recognize the genocide when making an official statement recognizing the anniversary. The Turkish government has pressured Obama to not use the word in describing the massacre.
“That’s a tough one,” Obama responded, before going on to shake the hand of the next person in the receiving line. “I am trying to prevent future genocides.”
Najarian noted Pope Francis used the word earlier that week.
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“Well, the Pope doesn’t have a government to run like I do,” Obama answered.
It took courage on Najarian’s part to speak up on a politically-charged issue at a ceremonial event. It indicates how important it is to Armenians that what happened a century ago is viewed with the proper perspective.