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ESPN Responds to Pat Tillman’s Mom’s Complaint About ‘Controversial’ Prince Harry Receiving ESPY Award

ESPN is standing by their choice to honor Prince Harry with the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2024 ESPYS despite backlash from Pat Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman.

“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 told Us Weekly in a statement on Monday, July 1.

The company acknowledged: “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.”

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Last week, Harry, 39, was announced as the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service, which was named in honor of the late NFL star and U.S. Army Ranger. Pat was killed during combat in 2004. The ESPY Award honors the late soldier’s legacy and commends those who have an equally strong connection to sports and service.

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Getty Images

While Harry served for 10 years in the British Armed Forces — and gives back through his Invictus Games Foundation — some people were surprised by the decision to give him the coveted award at the upcoming Thursday, July 11, ceremony.

Pat’s mom, Mary, expressed concerns over the Duke of Sussex being named the 2024 recipient, telling the Daily Mail on Saturday, June 29, “I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award.”

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She continued: “There are recipients that are far more fitting. There are individuals working in the veteran community that are doing tremendous things to assist veterans.”

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Richard Tillman, Pat Tilman, Sr. and Mary Tilman during the 2003 ESPY Awards. KMazur/WireImage for ESPN

Mary claimed, “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.”

She noted that she was not consulted about who should receive the award that is named after her late son.

ESPN Responds Prince Harry ESPY Award Backlash Pat Tillman Mom Concerns
Prince Harry Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Despite some negative feedback, Harry’s team at The Invictus Games — which was created to “celebrate the unconquered human spirit and shine a spotlight on these men and women who served,” per their website — is happy to see their founder be celebrated at the awards show.

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“Thank you to the @ESPYS for honouring the founding of the #InvictusGames Foundation by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex and our work to support the rehabilitation of the international wounded, injured or sick service community. #IAMHere #InvictusSpirit 💛🖤,” The Invictus Games wrote via X in June.

ESPN also expressed excitement over the three “incredible individuals” that are being honored at this year’s ESPYS. In addition to Harry, former NFL safety Steve Gleason will receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for his heroic fight against ALS.

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Prince Harry Matt Cardy/Getty Images

University of South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley is being honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance after achieving the perfect season culminating in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship title.

“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,” Kate Jackson, ESPN’s Vice President of Production, said in a statement last month. “And we’re thrilled to celebrate them at The 2024 ESPYS.”

The 2024 ESPY Awards on ABC Thursday, July 11, at 8 p.m. ET.

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