Soccer Star Marcus Rashford Accepts Pat Tillman Award at ESPY Awards: 'I Couldn't Be Prouder'
Marcus Rashford used his tremendous fame and popularity as a Manchester United player to help raise millions of dollars for children in England during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, his efforts earned him the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2021 ESPY Awards on Saturday.
"What I'm doing is nothing to do with football," Rashford, 23, said in a six-minute clip that aired during the award show. "It's to do with what's right and what's wrong."
"When people tell you you can't do something, and then you go ahead and do it, it's a great feeling," the athlete added.
While Rashford — who is currently playing on the England national team in the Euro 2021 final — was not in New York City to accept his award in person, he appeared virtually at the end of the clip to offer a few words of thanks.
"Understanding Pat's story, I couldn't be prouder to be accepting this award today," he said.
Rashford's efforts were also praised in the video by the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as a person near and dear to Rashford's heart: his mother, Melanie Maynard.
"An athlete is the least we can be," Rashford previously told ESPN of the honor, which was established in 2014. "Sport can be the biggest driver of positive change, with its ability to truly unite. If I have achieved anything over the last year, I would hope that it would be to demonstrate to my peers what is possible when we are driven by a passion and determination for better."
"Better not for ourselves, but for those whose voices are very rarely heard," he added.
Rashford, who plays forward for the Premier League club, wrote an open letter to members of England's government in mid-2020 asking them to reconsider the termination of a national voucher plan to feed children from low-income families as schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A short time after England's Department for Education said the program would end once the school year closed, they instead announced it would be extended with more than $166 million in funding, ESPN reported.
Rashford also used his status to secure $556 million from donors to continue the distribution of the meals into 2021. ESPN said the initiative would affect 1.7 million children.
"We have a platform to speak on behalf of millions. When we wake up in the morning, we decide what we want to do with that platform," Rashford told the outlet.
"The reward of helping just one will always outweigh the risk of any negativity or criticism thrown my way. I'm honored to be this year's recipient of the Pat Tillman Award," he added. "A huge thank you to all involved."
The Pat Tillman Award is named after the former Arizona Cardinals star.
Tillman was in his mid-20s when he told the Cardinals 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 Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"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.
The 2021 ESPY Awards, hosted by Anthony Mackie, are broadcasting live on ABC from The Rooftop at Pier 17 at the Seaport in New York City on Saturday.