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Prince Harry 'Stunned' by Backlash to His ESPY Nomination After Afghanistan Vet's Mom Said She'd Have Preferred for It to Go to Someone 'Less Privileged'

Composite photo of Pat Tillman and Prince Harry
Source: MEGA

Prince Harry is said to be "stunned" by the backlash he faced after it was announced that he would receive an award named in honor of Pat Tillman

Jul. 8 2024, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

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Prince Harry is said to be "stunned" by the backlash he faced after it was announced that he would receive an award named in honor of Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan after giving up his football career to enlist in the United States Army in the wake of 9/11, has learned.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service, which has been handed out at ESPN's ESPY Awards since 2014, is given to individuals who have served others in ways that embodies Tillman's legacy. Last year it went to the Buffalo Bills training staff who helped save the life of Damar Hamlin after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a game.

ESPN said that the Duke of Sussex was selected for the honor in recognition of his "tireless work in making a positive impact for the veteran community through the power of sport" by founding the Invictus Games, "creating an international platform to support wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women — both active-duty and veterans — who are navigating both physical and invisible injuries."

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Composite photo of Prince Harry.
Source: MEGA

Prince Harry continues to navigate rough waters in his 'flop era.'

But Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, slammed the choice, telling The Daily Mail, "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," 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."

ESPN analyst Pat McAfee called the network's decision "embarrassing," and a petition demanding that ESPN "rethink" their selection has received over 68,000 signatures.

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prince harry military
Source: MEGA

Prince Harry faced criticism over being nominated for the 2024 ESPY's Pat Tillman award.

Prince Harry
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Prince Harry served in the British Armed Forces for 10 years, including two tours in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot, and helped launch the Invictus Games, a Paralympic-style sporting event for service members, in 2014.

A source told The Telegraph that the royal is used to criticism by now, but criticism of his military record and work with veterans is a "particularly bitter pill to swallow."

"Harry’s legacy on Invictus, the things he has achieved, that’s his real passion," they said. "This is the space in which he truly feels at home, it is something he deeply cares about. The reaction certainly took the shine off the award."

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prince harry invictus
Source: MEGA

Sources said criticism of Harry's nomination related to his own military service has been a 'bitter pill to swallow.'

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Jake Wood, a U.S. Marine and former college football player who won the Pat Tillman Award in 2018, defended Harry to TMZ, saying, "He's a royal prince, right? There's 100 different things that Prince Harry could have done with his life after his service in the British Armed Forces but he's chosen to dedicate a big portion of his post-military life to helping his fellow veterans."

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr., another previous winner who received the Tillman Award in 2017, noted that Tillman's mother has every right to voice her opinion but agreed that Harry's work with wounded veterans makes him a worthy recipient.

"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," a spokesperson for the network told in a statement.



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