The memory of Pat Tillman has been invoked for the better part of two decades whenever people attempt to accuse athletes of privilege. The idea being, of course, that if players like Colin Kaepernick really cared about the country, they’d quit football and join the military like Tillman did.
Tillman tragically isn’t around to have much of a say in how his name is used, or for which cause, which is unfortunate because by most accounts he was a complex, insightful person not easily painted into any particular corner. The world obviously needs more people like him. But one of the people who knew him best, Marie Tillman, spoke to CNN’s Brian Stelter, which he shared online and on Twitter (emphasis his):
On Monday A.M. @realDonaldTrump retweeted a random MAGA account that invoked Pat Tillman‘s name and face to promote Trump’s #StandForOurAnthem position. “Stop Using Pat Tillman,” by Deadspin’s Patrick Redford, explains why this is so disturbing.
On Monday night, Pat’s widow Marie Tillman shared this statement with me. She has been sharply critical of the president in the past. She is hoping this statement reaches him.
“As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify,” Tillman wrote. “It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together. Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that. Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day.”
Tillman added: “The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn’t always agree with those views. It is my sincere hope that our leaders both understand and learn from the lessons of Pat’s life and death, and also those of so many other brave Americans.”
That’s an unequivocal statement from Marie Tillman, and one that anyone looking to use her late husband’s memory would be wise to heed. Tillman was indeed a hero, but using a hero’s memory like some have tried to do pretty much from his death to today remains incredibly offensive.
It’s also important to note Marie Tillman’s bravery in sharing this statement with the world.
This won’t completely eliminate the problem going forward, of course. But it certainly can’t hurt.