Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Previous Pat Tillman Award Winners Support Prince Harry After Backlash

By Michael Jul 2, 2024

Past recipients of the Pat Tillman Award for Service are rallying around Prince Harry after ESPN faced backlash for honoring him at the upcoming 2024 ESPY Awards.

Jake Wood, a former Marine and college football player who won the award in 2018, told TMZ on Tuesday, July 2, that Harry, 39, is “a natural fit” and “good choice” for the honor because of his own military service and work on behalf of veterans. According to the outlet, Wood believes Harry’s work with veterans “should be commended” in part because “there are hundreds of different ways a British royal could live his life.”

Israel Del Toro Jr., who received the Tillman Award in 2017, also spoke to TMZ in support of Harry, saying that the prince’s work with veterans makes him a “worthy recipient” of the honor. Del Toro is an Air Force master sergeant who was wounded in 2005 while serving in Afghanistan, where Harry also served two tours of duty.

After recovering from his injuries, Del Toro reenlisted in the Air Force and began competing in shot put, discus and javelin. He participated in the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014 and won a gold medal in shot put at the event two years later.

U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Israel Del Toro Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

ESPN announced last month that Harry will be honored with the Tillman Award at this year’s ESPY Awards, which air Thursday, July 11. The award is named in honor of Pat Tillman, a former NFL star and U.S. Army Ranger who was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2004 at age 27. The trophy is meant to honor individuals with a strong connection to support whose service work echoes the late Tillman’s legacy.

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Last year, the honor went to the Buffalo Bills training staff for their efforts to save Damar Hamlin’s life after he suffered cardiac arrest on the field during a game. Harry is being recognized for his work as cofounder of the Invictus Games, a multisport event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.

Jake Wood Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Days after Harry was announced as this year’s winner, Pat’s mother, Mary Tillman, slammed ESPN’s decision to honor the royal. “I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award,” she told the Daily Mail in an interview published Saturday, June 29. “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 continued: “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.”

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Mary also claimed that she was not consulted about who should receive the honor named for her late son.

Following Mary’s comments, ESPN issued a statement in support of Harry as this year’s recipient.

Israel Del Toro and Prince Harry Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Invictus Games

“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 on Monday, July 1. “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.”

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

By Michael

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