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Prince Harry’s ESPY Award Draws Backlash from Pat Tillman’s Mother: ‘I Am Shocked’

Prince Harry's ESPY Award Draws Backlash from Pat Tillman's Mother- ‘I Am Shocked’
Prince Harry. Karwai Tang/WireImage

Prince Harry is set to receive a major honor at this year’s ESPY Awards — but not everybody is supportive of the acknowledgment. 

The Duke of Sussex, 39, was recently announced as the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2024 ESPYS, a distinction bestowed upon an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes Tillman’s legacy.

Tillman, a former star safety for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed during combat while serving as a U.S. Army Ranger in Afghanistan in 2004.

“I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award,” Pat’s mother, Mary Tillman, told the Daily Mail in an interview published on Saturday, June 29. “There are recipients that are far more fitting. There are individuals working in the veteran community that are doing tremendous things to assist veterans.”

Prince Harry's ESPY Award Draws Backlash from Pat Tillman's Mother- ‘I Am Shocked’
Gene Lower/Getty Images
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She added, “These individuals do not have the money, resources, connections or privilege that Prince Harry has. I feel that those types of individuals should be recognized.”

Mary said she was not consulted about who should receive the award that bears her late son’s name.

In response to Mary’s comments about Prince Harry, ESPN stood by their decision to recognize him.

“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 Us Weekly. “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.”

Past recipients of the Pat Tillman Award for Service include soccer star Marcus Rashford, who helped raise millions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic to feed children in England, the Buffalo Bills training staff for the work they did in saving the life of Damar Hamlin and retired Army Command Sergeant Major Gretchen Evans.

Harry is being recognized for his 10 years of service in the British Armed Forces, which included two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a forward air controller and Apache helicopter pilot. 

Prince Harry's ESPY Award Draws Backlash from Pat Tillman's Mother- ‘I Am Shocked’
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

The Duke is also being honored for cofounding The Invictus Games Foundation, which supports wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. 

Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, the Invictus Games is an international event featuring both active and veteran service members competing in a variety of sporting events. 

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Harry will be celebrated alongside former NFL player Steve Gleason, who is receiving the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for his heroic fight against ALS, and University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, who is receiving  the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.

“It’s our privilege to recognize three incredible individuals — Steve Gleason, Dawn Staley and Prince Harry,” Kate Jackson, ESPN’s vice president of production, said. “These honorees have used their platforms to change the world and make it more inclusive for marginalized and suffering communities, demonstrating incredible resilience, positivity and perseverance, and we’re thrilled to celebrate them at The 2024 ESPYS.”

The 2024 ESPYS — hosted by Serena Williams — air on ABC Thursday, July 11, at 8 p.m. ET.

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