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Could Prince Harry have his ESPY award rescinded? Backlash is growing as the mother of the award’s eponymous hero criticises the ‘controversial and divisive’ Duke of Sussex

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Could Prince Harry have his ESPY award rescinded? Backlash is growing as the mother of the award's eponymous hero criticises the ‘controversial and divisive' Duke of Sussex

The Pat Tillman Award for Service will be awarded to Prince Harry on the 10-year anniversary of his Invictus Games Foundation, but Tillman’s mother has expressed her concern with the decision.

Could Prince Harry have his ESPY award rescinded? Backlash is growing as the mother of the award's eponymous hero criticises the ‘controversial and divisive' Duke of Sussex

Prince Harry is set to receive an ESPY award for his work with the Invictus Games Foundation this month, but the broadcast channel behind The Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards has been forced to defend its decision to honour the Prince amid a volley of public backlash.

 

The Duke of Sussex was named as the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service last week and will receive the award on 11 July. The ceremony honours ‘a person with a strong connection to sports’ who has served others in a manner that echoes the spirit of former NFL player and US Army Ranger, Pat Tillman.

 

Tillman enlisted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, leaving behind a £3 million American Football contract to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was killed in 2004. When announcing that Prince Harry would be receiving the Pat Tillman Award, the ESPYs pointed towards the Prince’s own military service, as a forward air controller and Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. ESPN, the cable sports channel that organises the awards, celebrated the Invictus Game Foundation’s commitment to supporting the mental and physical health of wounded servicemen and women through sport.

 

Just days after the ESPYs announcement, however, Pat Tillman’s mother, Mary, told the Daily Mail that she believed Prince Harry was not deserving of the award that pays tribute to her son’s legacy.

 

‘I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award,’ said Mary, who claims she was not consulted as to the recipient of the award

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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.’

 

This condemnation comes as 51,000 people have signed Change.org petition calling for the ESPN to ‘rethink’ awarding the honour to Prince Harry.
Previous winners of the Pat Tillman Award include British footballer Marcus Rashford, who received the honour in 2021 for raising funds to feed school children during Covid lockdowns.

 

Many have come out in defence of the decision, however, including US Air Force Master Sgt Israel Del Toro Jr, the 2017 recipient of the award, and the 2018 winner Jake Wood, a former US marine, who told TMZ that the Duke of Sussex’s military service, and dedication to supporting veterans, made him a ‘natural fit’ for the honour. Wood did not criticise Mary Tillman for her opinions though, defending her right to comment.

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