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Sean Pendergast: Prince Harry ‘Sounds Like a Worthy Recipient’ for Pat Tillman Award at ESPYS

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, will be receiving the 2024 Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPY Awards next week, a decision that has drawn criticism from several entities. The award is named after former NFL safety Pat Tillman, who decided to forgo his professional football career and enlist in the U.S. Army following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident that took place in Afghanistan in 2004. Every year, the recipient of the award is someone “with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of the former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger, Pat Tillman,” according to ESPN.

Prince Harry is receiving the award for his service in the British Armed Forces and creation of The Invictus Games Foundation, a platform that supports wounded, injured and sick active-duty and veteran servicemen and servicewomen “navigating both physical and invisible injuries.” Tillman’s mother criticized the decision to honor Prince Harry with the award and stated that she was not consulted about the decision.

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“As I understand it, it’s the award people that pick – it’s the Pat Tillman Foundation that picks the winner, not ESPN, but ESPN’s getting a lot of heat for this because why are you giving this English dude who’s not even in the Royal Family anymore – but in the Royal Family nonetheless; I guess he’s not officially part of royalty, whatever – yeah, why the hell are you doing this?,” Seth Payne, co-host of Payne and Pendergast, said Wednesday morning on SportsRadio 610. “I don’t know if people are genuinely angry over this or if it’s a slow news month in July angry about it.”

Pat McAfee briefly discussed Prince Harry receiving the honor at the ESPYS, audio that the radio program played over the air. Co-host Sean Pendergast then stated that McAfee basically admitted that he had no idea why Prince Harry was being given the award. Pendergast does not follow the Royal Family closely, but after reading about what he is being recognized for, he believes that the ESPY Awards show is honoring what “sounds like a worthy recipient” to him. ESPN provided a statement to Nika Shakhnazarova of the New York Post in which the company defended the decision.

“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 said in a statement. “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.”

Payne believes part of the disquiet is that many of the previous winners have not been celebrities whereas Prince Harry has been of notoriety for many years. When he first saw the news of him receiving the award, Payne had a knee-jerk reaction that conveyed exasperation with the Royal Family. At the same time, he understands the rationale for the decision and spoke about the setting wherein the honor will be presented.

“But when it comes to fundraising or bringing eyeballs to The Invictus Games or anything else like that, there is a place for honoring the celebrities when you’re at an event that’s honoring other celebrities,” Payne said. “A lot of the athletes up who are getting awards – the reason people watch is because there’s professional athletes getting awards more so than the few that are sprinkled in who aren’t so well known to the public eye.”

The Buffalo Bills training staff received the award last year after saving the life of safety Damar Hamlin when he suffered cardiac arrest during an NFL game. Payne believes that the issue discomfited Tillman’s mother and caused her to question why they were doing this now. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex stepped down as a senior member of the Royal Family in 2020 two years after marrying Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. Following criticism about infatuation with the British Royal Family by those in the United States, Pendergast asked his co-host how much they should hate themselves that they spent seven minutes discussing this topic.

“We should get a royalty check from ESPN itself because, again, the Pat Tillman Foundation makes the decision,” Payne said, “but I don’t think ESPN is probably upset that people are talking about ESPN in this dead, dead, dead time of sports news.”

“They literally have the ESPYS on the deadest sports day of the year – the day after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game,” Pendergast added. “With all due respect to the various soccer and cricket that might be going on around the world, I can tell you as a gambler, that is a dead day, the Wednesday after the All-Star Game. Nothing going on; nothing, except the ESPYS.”


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