The mother of American hero and former NFL player Pat Tillman has slammed ESPN’s controversial decision to honor Prince Harry with the prestigious award named after her son. Mary Tillman expressed her disappointment, revealing she was never consulted by the sports network regarding the selection of the Duke of Sussex for the Pat Tillman Award, which honors her late son, an NFL safety-turned-Army Ranger who enlisted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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

Mary Tillman highlighted that Harry is already a well-known figure with numerous accolades, suggesting ESPN should have chosen someone less prominent but more deserving. The Pat Tillman Award has often celebrated unsung heroes, such as last year’s recipient, the Buffalo Bills training staff who revived Damar Hamlin after his cardiac arrest during a game.

ESPN analysts have echoed Mary Tillman’s sentiments. Pat McAfee, an outspoken critic of the network’s decision, accused ESPN of “trying to piss people off” with their choice. “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? This is like actually the most embarrassing thing I’ve seen in my entire life,” McAfee said on his talk show.

ESPN’s VP of Production, Kate Jackson, defended the decision, claiming the honorees have used their platforms to enact global change and support marginalized communities. “These honorees have used their platforms to change the world and make it more inclusive for marginalized and suffering communities, demonstrating incredible resilience, positivity, and perseverance, and we’re thrilled to celebrate them at the 2024 ESPYs,” Jackson said.

While Prince Harry has been praised for his military service and his role in launching the Invictus Games—a multi-sport event for wounded or injured servicemen and veterans—critics argue that his controversial public life and existing fame make him an ill fit for the Pat Tillman Award. Harry served in the British military for ten years, including two tours in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot.

“This one is for our entire service community,” Harry said upon learning he would receive the award.

Created in 2014, the Pat Tillman Award honors those who have served in ways that reflect Tillman’s legacy. Pat Tillman, a former Arizona Cardinals safety, left his NFL career to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was tragically killed by friendly fire in 2004. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service.

Mary Tillman’s criticism underscores a broader frustration among many Americans who feel that the values and sacrifices of true heroes like her son are being overshadowed by media-driven celebrity culture. The decision to honor Prince Harry, a figure mired in controversy and privilege, appears to many as a misguided attempt to inject star power into an award meant to recognize genuine sacrifice and service. As the backlash continues, it raises important questions about the criteria and motivations behind such prestigious recognitions.