Pat Tillman, the NFL player who left the sport to join the military and subsequently was killed in Afghanistan, should be seen as an inspiration for freedom, unity, and justice — not a tool to silence others. That’s the position of his widow, Marie Tillman, who offered her own thoughts on the matter after Donald Trump used Tillman as an example of a player more deserving of respect than Colin Kaepernick.
While Marie Tillman delivered her message nearly one year ago, it’s just as relevant today, as conservatives bash Kaepernick for continuing to fight for justice.
Nike released a new ad with Kaepernick as its focus over Labor Day weekend, and the public learned the NFL star had signed a new contract with the company. The ad copy alludes to Kaepernick’s protest and the subsequent loss of his NFL employment. The response, as expected, was explosive. People offended at Nike’s support of Kaepernick called for a boycott and made elaborate public displays of destroying Nike merchandise they had already purchased.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
— John Rich (@johnrich) September 3, 2018
It didn’t take long for conservatives to, as GQ describes it, “scramble to find a white athlete they think is more deserving of praise,” and the athlete they chose was none other than Pat Tillman.
However, it’s a good time to remember that Marie Tillman, who has written about her experience with the loss of her husband, co-founded a foundation in his name to support the education of military veterans and spouses, and founded a children’s clothing boutique, has already addressed this.
Last year, Trump suggested NFL players should be fired for protesting, calling them by a harsh profane term.
Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a [redacted] off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!
Bleacher Report covered Marie Tillman’s response on behalf of her husband.
As a football player and soldier Pat inspired countless Americans to unify. 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. 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.
Perhaps the most relevant portion of the statement is currently her assertion that her heroic husband believed in the freedom of expression, for all viewpoints — suggesting she believes that, whether or not Pat supported Kaepernick’s cause he would have supported his freedom to express it, and opposed efforts to quash it.
In particular, it’s important to recognize that Pat Tillman’s widow doesn’t appreciate that he’s being co-opted for a political agenda — specifically, an agenda to, as she says, divide Americans against one another.
If we truly believe Pat Tillman is deserving of honor and respect, we should honor and respect this simple request on his behalf.