The widow of Pat Tillman, the football star who quit the NFL and signed up for the Army Rangers after the Sept. 11 attacks, is criticizing President Donald Trump and others who are politicizing his legacy amid the controversy over NFL player protests during the national anthem.
“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,” Marie Tillman said in a statement. “Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy.”
“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.”
This is just the latest instance of Tillman’s story being pulled into the political controversy. Tillman left a multimillion-dollar NFL contract after four seaons playing for the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Two years after enlisting, he was killed by friendly fire during a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was 27.
Tensions between Trump and NFL players – the majority of whom are black – have been running high in recent days after he spoke out against NFL player Colin Kaepernick and other players kneeling during the “Star Spangled Banner” to protest police brutality and racism.
On Sunday, NFL players put on a united front after Trump’s controversial comments.
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Over 100 players linked arms, knelt, or simply stayed in the locker room during the national anthem during several games.
The demonstration came after Trump encouraged NFL owners to fire the players who kneel in protest during the National Anthem. He called the move a display of “total disrespect” for the country and referred to protestors as “sons of bitches.”