ESPN Breaks Silence On Prince Harry, Pat Tillman Award Controversy

By Jason Hall

July 2, 2024

Photo: Getty Images

ESPN broke its silence amid criticism of its decision to give Prince Harry the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the upcoming ESPY Awards, specifically from the late former Arizona Cardinals safety turned U.S. Army solider's mother.

ESPN, with the support of the Tillman Foundation, is honoring Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, specifically for the work of The Invictus Games Foundation as it celebrates its 10th year promoting healing through the power of sport for military service members and veterans around the world,” ESPN said in a statement to the New York Post on Tuesday (July 2). “While we understand not everyone will agree with all honorees selected for any award, The Invictus Games Foundation does incredible work and ESPN believes this is a cause worth celebrating.”

The statement was shared days after Mary Tillman slammed ESPN's decision.

“I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award,” Mary told the Daily Mail.

“There are recipients that are far more fitting,” she added. “There are individuals working in the veteran community that are doing tremendous things to assist veterans.”

The Pat Tillman Award, which was created in 2014, is "given to a person with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of the former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger, Pat Tillman," according to ESPN. Last year, the award was previously given to the Buffalo Bills training staff for their heroic efforts to save Bills safety Damar Hamlin after he suffered cardiac arrest in the middle of a Monday Night Football game.

Former NFL punter and ESPN talk show host Pat McAfee, who has openly expressed his frustration with the network's decisions multiple times since signing a lucrative contract in 2023, claimed that ESPN was "trying to piss people off" by having Prince Harry as the award winner.

“It’s going to Prince Harry, who I don’t even think is a Prince anymore, right? He said, 'don’t call me that? See, why does the ESPYs do this s–t?" McAfee said.

Prince Harry, who served 10 years in the British Army, including two tours in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot, is credited for his role in launching the Invictus Games, a multi-sport, Paralympic-styled games for wounded and injured veterans in 2014. Tillman abruptly retired from the NFL after four seasons to serve in the U.S. Army following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The former Arizona State standout served in Iraq and then Afghanistan before being killed by friendly fire in 2004, posthumously receiving the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his military service.

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