Prince Harry's Reaction To Pat Tillman Award Backlash Revealed

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Prince Harry is reportedly "stunned" by the backlash he's received after it was announced that he'd receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service during the upcoming 2024 ESPY Awards, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Telegraph on Sunday (July 7).

“Harry’s legacy on Invictus, the things he has achieved, that’s his real passion,” the source said, claiming the scrutiny was a "bitter pill to swallow" for Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, both of whom have received criticism following their decision to step away from their royal duties.

“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," the source said.

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. 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's mother, Mary, publicly slammed ESPN's decision while speaking to the Daily Mail last month.

“I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award,” she said. “There are recipients that are far more fitting. There are individuals working in the veteran community that are doing tremendous things to assist veterans.”

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.

ESPN shared a statement to the New York Post last Tuesday (July 2) addressing the backlash.

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,” the network said. “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.”

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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