Pat Tillman, who turned down millions to play for the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers, died by friendly fire in 2004

By Jason Duaine Hahn
June 22, 2020 04:50 PM
Pat Tillman, Colin Kaepernick
Credit: Gene Lower/Getty;

NFL legend Brett Favre said Colin Kaepernick should be regarded as a "hero" like Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who died while serving in Afghanistan in 2004.

While speaking to TMZ Sports, Favre said Kaepernick's efforts to fight police brutality and systemic racism was reminiscent of Tillman's choice to forgo his NFL career to join the U.S. Army in 2002.

"It's not easy for a guy his age — Black or white, Hispanic, whatever — to stop something that you've always dreamed of doing, and put it on hold, maybe forever, for something that you believe in," Favre, 50, told the outlet when asked if he believes Kaepernick deserves a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.

"I can only think of — right off the top of my head — Pat Tillman's another guy who did something similar, and we regard him as a hero,” he continued. "So I'd assume that hero status will be stamped with Kaepernick as well."

Kaepernick, 32, famously began the #TakeAKnee movement in 2016 when he kneeled during the national anthem as a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

Brett Favre
Former quarterback Brett Favre
| Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty

The protests made Kaepernick the target of critics who erroneously believed kneeling during the anthem was intended to be disrespectful toward the flag and troops (In fact, it was a former Green Beret who advised Kaepernick to kneel instead of remaining seated during the protests).

But the #TakeAKnee movement attracted renewed support in May after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer forcibly placed his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

After opting out of his contract with the 49ers in 2017, Kaepernick has not played in an NFL game in nearly four years.

Tillman was in his mid-20s when he told the Cardinals in 2003 that he was putting his career on hold to join the Army with his brother, according to the Pat Tillman Foundation. He was motivated in part by the September 11th terror attacks.

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“At times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed," Tillman said after the attacks, according to the foundation. "A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing."

Tillman died at 27 in April 2004 when his unit was ambushed in Afghanistan. He was killed by "fratricide," or friendly fire.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero ( which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement ( provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.