Prince Harry, once hailed as a heroic figure for his military service and charitable endeavors, now finds himself at the center of a storm of criticism. The controversy erupted after it was announced that the Duke of Sussex would receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2024 ESPYs, an honor intended to celebrate individuals who embody the spirit of service exemplified by the late NFL player and US Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

The backlash was swift and fierce, with even Mary Tillman, the mother of the award’s namesake, expressing her disapproval. She criticized ESPN for not consulting her about the decision, raising questions about the integrity of the selection process.

Grant Harrold, a former royal butler, shared his insights exclusively with The Post, suggesting that Prince Harry is deeply affected by the negative reaction. “Harry is undoubtedly feeling quite sad about it,” Harrold said. He described Harry as “one of the most caring, kindest, and most gentle people you could ever meet,” indicating that the Duke may be considering declining the award to avoid further upset.

Harrold’s comments underscore the personal and emotional toll this backlash is taking on Harry, who stepped down from royal duties in 2020. “If he thinks that it is going to cause upset, then it is quite likely that he could decline the award,” Harrold noted, adding that Harry is likely consulting with his team and wife, Meghan Markle, on how to proceed.

ESPN has defended its decision, citing Harry’s decade-long service in the British armed forces, which included two tours in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot and a forward air controller. They also highlighted his work with the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women.

However, many critics argue that Harry’s recent actions and political stances have overshadowed his military service. His public support for controversial figures like Liz Cheney and Pete Buttigieg has alienated some of his traditional supporters. Moreover, his departure from royal duties and subsequent media ventures have led some to question his motivations.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service is meant to honor those who have made significant contributions that echo Tillman’s legacy. Tillman, who left a lucrative NFL career to serve in the military after the September 11 attacks, exemplified selflessness and patriotism. He was tragically killed by friendly fire in 2004 and posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Many feel that honoring Prince Harry with this award diminishes Tillman’s sacrifice and the values he stood for. Harrold acknowledged this sentiment, saying, “I can understand why Harry might be confused about the reaction to him being up for the award — this is to do with his military background.” However, he maintained that there have “never been any issues or questions over that.”

Despite ESPN’s justification, the backlash has sparked a broader debate about what constitutes genuine service and sacrifice. Critics urge Harry to “do the honorable thing” and decline the award, suggesting that his acceptance would be seen as self-serving rather than a tribute to Tillman’s legacy.

As the controversy unfolds, Prince Harry faces a critical decision that could further impact his public image. Will he stand by the recognition of his military service, or will he heed the calls to step aside in honor of Pat Tillman’s unparalleled sacrifice? Only time will tell how this latest chapter in Harry’s tumultuous journey will conclude.