Prince Harry award challenged by family of war hero

Decision to give Duke of Sussex award named after US war hero killed in Afghanistan has been criticised by the soldier’s mother

The decision to give the Duke of Sussex a sports award named after an American war hero killed in Afghanistan has been criticised by the soldier’s mother..

The Duke will receive the Pat Tillman Award at the ESPY awards, a sports event run by TV network ESPN, for his work with injured veterans with the Invictus Games.

Prince Harry
Prince Harry Photo

The Office of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex publicised news that Prince Harry had won the award on their website, saying he was one of the “esteemed recipients” of the prize that recognised “exceptional individuals who exemplify courage, perseverance, and service”.

The mother of Pat Tillman, Mary, has now criticised the decision, reportedly telling the Mail on Sunday: “I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award.

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

“These individuals do not have the money, resources, connections or privilege that Prince Harry has. I feel that those types of individuals should be recognised.”

Pat Tillman was an American football player who gave up his professional career after 9/11 to enlist in the US army.

Purple Heart
He served in Iraq and then Afghanistan, and was killed by friendly fire in 2004 and posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for bravery.

Previous winners of the ESPY named in his honour include the team of training staff at US football team the Buffalo Bills, who saved the life of a player who had a cardiac arrest on the field. Marcus Rashford, the British football player and campaigner, is also a previous recipient, along with retired US army Sergeant Major Gretchen Evans who suffered traumatic brain injury and founded adaptive racing squad Team Unbroken.

Announcing that Prince Harry would this year be one of the “incredible individuals” honoured by the ESPY awards, Kate Jackson, VP, Production at ESPN said: “These honorees have used their platforms to change the world and make it more inclusive for marginalised and suffering communities, demonstrating incredible resilience, positivity and perseverance, and we’re thrilled to celebrate them at the 2024 ESPYs.”

The decision has become a talking point in America, with Pat McAfee – a former NFL player who worked for ESPN – saying: “Why does the ESPYs do this —-?

“I don’t know anything about him except for the South Park episode and what I have learned from The Crown.

“But like, did his people know like ‘You publicly put me up for this award’. You’re just asking basically every person that considers themselves American like saying ‘This is bulls—-’.

“Especially at a sports award type of thing… I assume he knew that. They didn’t expect that?”

In a discussion broadcast online, a second pundit called Boston Connor called it “probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve seen in my entire life”, while another, Ty Schmitt, called it “just a gimmick”.

The ESPY Awards will be held on July 11 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, and will be hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s friend, tennis champion Serena Williams.


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