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Prince Harry ‘Stunned’ By Backlash Plaguing His ESPY Award

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Harry was nominated for the Pat Tillman Award for his work with the Invictus Games Foundation, but several individuals have since slammed ESPN for selecting the Duke of Sussex, including the war hero’s mom, who said the honor should have gone to someone “less privileged.”

ESPN has since defended its decision to honor Prince Harry with the award, stating that the Invictus Games does work that is worthy of recognition.

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Prince Harry Is ‘Stunned’ By The Backlash Over His ESPY Award

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The Duke of Sussex found himself at the center of a heated controversy after being nominated for the prestigious Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2024 ESPY Awards.

Pat Tillman was an American football star who gave up a handsome contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist as an army ranger and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was killed in 2004 by friendly fire.

The award, which recognizes 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 US Army Ranger,” has drawn severe backlash, with critics arguing that the prince’s privileged background makes him an unsuitable recipient.

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The uprising is understood to have stunned the Duke of Sussex as sources told The Telegraph that it is a “bitter pill to swallow” when he’s slammed for anything relating to his military record and work with veterans.

“Harry’s legacy on Invictus, the things he has achieved, that’s his real passion,” the insider shared. “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.”

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Pat Tillman’s Mom Doesn’t Think Prince Harry Deserves The Award

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
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Leading the criticisms against Harry’s upcoming honor is the war hero’s mom, Mary Tillman, who expressed her disappointment that the award did not go to someone she considers more deserving.

According to the Daily Mail, Mary expressed doubts about the Duke of Sussex’s military service and the objective of the awards, claiming she was not consulted before he was selected.

“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.”

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“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,” the war hero’s mother added.

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Prince Harry Wants To Build His Image Around His Military Experience

Prince Harry at Windsor Castle on September 19, 2022 in Windsor, England.
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According to The Telegraph, the backlash trailing Harry’s ESPY nomination poses a problem for him as he’s believed to want to build a career on the foundation of his past military endeavors.

Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, relocated to the US in 2020 after quitting their royal roles, but they have struggled to keep things running in most of their ventures.

Meghan launched her American Riviera Orchard lifestyle brand and is understood to have finished filming her cooking show, but Harry is still struggling to find his niche.

His ESPYs Award nomination would have seemingly boosted his public profile as he’s oftentimes out of the spotlight in the US, but going by the public backlash, that seems to be a mountain too high for the royal to climb as he seeks another project worthy of recognition like the Invictus games.

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ESPN Defends Prince Harry’s Selection

Prince Harry
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The event organizers have since backed their decision to honor Harry with the prestigious award, which will be held on July 11.

Despite a petition that has gotten over 68,000 signatures calling for them to reconsider their stand against awarding the father-of-two the Pat Tillman Award, ESPN issued a statement defending their decision, noting that they believe his foundation does “incredible” work and is “worth celebrating.”

“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,” they said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

“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 event organizers added.

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The Duke Of Sussex Is Grateful For The Prestigious Honor

Despite critics’ stance on the matter, the Invictus Games Foundation has since taken to their X account to share a note of gratitude with the ESPYs for nominating Harry for the revered prize.

Sharing a photo of the Duke clasping hands with an Invictus Games participant, they wrote, “Thank you to the @ESPYS for honouring the founding of the #InvictusGames Foundation by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex and our work to support the rehabilitation of the international wounded, injured or sick service community.”

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