Prince Harry's selection for the Pat Tillman Award for Service has ignited a firestorm of controversy, particularly from the family of Pat Tillman, the award's namesake. The Duke of Sussex, 39, is set to be honored at the ESPY Awards on July 11 for his work with the Invictus Games Foundation. However, Mary Tillman, mother of the late NFL player and Army Ranger, has publicly criticized the decision, calling Prince Harry a "contentious and polarizing" choice.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service is presented to individuals who have demonstrated a strong commitment to service, inspired by the legacy of Pat Tillman. Tillman, who left a promising NFL career to enlist in the U.S. Army following the 9/11 attacks, was tragically killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. The award seeks to honor those who embody Tillman's spirit of dedication and sacrifice.

In a statement defending their choice, ESPN, the network behind the ESPYs, highlighted Prince Harry's military service as a forward air controller and Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. The network also praised the Invictus Games Foundation, which Prince Harry founded to support the rehabilitation of wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women through sports.

"Prince Harry's military service and his dedication to the well-being of veterans through the Invictus Games align with the values that Pat Tillman stood for," an ESPN spokesperson said.

Despite this defense, Mary Tillman expressed her disappointment and surprise at the selection. Speaking to 'The Daily Mail,' she stated, "I am surprised they would choose such a contentious and polarizing figure to receive the award. There are individuals working in the veteran community that are doing tremendous things to assist veterans. These individuals do not have the money, resources, connections, or privilege that Prince Harry has."

The backlash has prompted a broader discussion about the criteria and process for selecting honorees for such prestigious awards. Critics argue that while Prince Harry's contributions are significant, the award should recognize individuals who have overcome greater adversity and lack the advantages of wealth and royal status.

Mary Tillman's comments have resonated with many who feel that the award should go to someone more representative of grassroots efforts within the veteran community. "It's about honoring those who have truly sacrificed and worked tirelessly, often without recognition, to support their fellow veterans," one critic noted.

The controversy over Prince Harry's selection is reflective of broader tensions regarding public figures who are perceived as benefiting from privilege. While his military service and charitable work are commendable, the debate highlights the complexities of awarding recognition in a way that honors the spirit of Pat Tillman's legacy.

As the ESPY Awards approach, the scrutiny on Prince Harry's selection continues to mount. Some have called for the award to be reconsidered, while others urge a more inclusive approach to future selections. The debate underscores the ongoing challenge of balancing high-profile recognitions with the need to honor those whose contributions may be less visible but equally impactful.

The ESPY Awards have yet to respond to the calls for reconsideration, but the controversy has undoubtedly cast a shadow over this year's ceremony. It remains to be seen how the organizers will address the concerns raised by Mary Tillman and others who feel that the spirit of the Pat Tillman Award for Service has been compromised.

In the meantime, Prince Harry's camp has remained largely silent on the issue, focusing instead on the upcoming Invictus Games and continuing their work with veterans. Whether the award will ultimately be presented to him as planned, or if adjustments will be made in response to the backlash, is a decision that will be closely watched by supporters and critics alike.