Prince Harry is set to receive the prestigious Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2024 ESPY Awards, scheduled to be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The Duke of Sussex, known for his military service and founding the Invictus Games, a sporting event for wounded veterans, will be honored despite significant backlash. Speculation is rife that Meghan Markle may join her husband at the event, adding to the heightened public interest and scrutiny.

Historian, author, and royal commentator Gareth Russell discussed the possibility of Meghan Markle accompanying Prince Harry. "It's certainly a big celebrity event, and that's, of course, the environment in which the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are circulating at the moment," Russell told GB News. "She has accompanied him to events similar to this in the past, so it's possible that she'll be there. Certainly, it's a very high-profile event, I imagine, for many in America."

The decision to award Prince Harry has sparked controversy, with some critics questioning his suitability for the honor. Mary Tillman, mother of the late Pat Tillman, expressed her dismay, stating that other individuals were more deserving. "I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award," Mary told the Daily Mail. "There are recipients that are far more fitting. There are individuals working in the veteran community that are doing tremendous things to assist veterans."

In response to the backlash, a petition was launched urging ESPN to reconsider its decision, gathering over 70,000 signatures. Despite this, ESPN has defended its choice, emphasizing Prince Harry's contributions through the Invictus Games. "ESPN, with the support of the Tillman Foundation, is honoring Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, specifically for the work of The Invictus Games Foundation as it celebrates its 10th year promoting healing through the power of sport for military service members and veterans around the world," the organization stated.

ESPN acknowledged that not everyone would agree with their selection but maintained that the Invictus Games Foundation's work is worth celebrating. "While we understand not everyone will agree with all honorees selected for any award, The Invictus Games Foundation does incredible work, and ESPN believes this is a cause worth celebrating," they added.

The controversy has prompted some to suggest alternative approaches for Prince Harry. Michael Cole, a former BBC journalist and royal commentator, offered two potential solutions to mitigate the backlash. "I would say that he should either politely decline the award because it is so controversial, or he should not accept it in person because we don't want to see him being booed," Cole suggested.

The ESPY Awards, known for celebrating excellence in sports performance and humanitarian efforts, have always attracted significant media attention. This year's event is likely to be no different, particularly with the added drama surrounding Prince Harry's award. The potential presence of Meghan Markle could further amplify the event's profile, given the couple's high visibility and the ongoing public and media interest in their activities.

Prince Harry's involvement in the Invictus Games has been widely recognized and praised. The games, founded in 2014, provide a platform for wounded, injured, or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete in various sports, promoting recovery and rehabilitation. Despite the controversy, many supporters argue that this initiative alone justifies the award.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have navigated a turbulent few years, marked by their departure from royal duties and relocation to the United States. Their activities, including media ventures and public appearances, continue to spark debate and generate headlines. The upcoming ESPY Awards will likely add another chapter to their complex public narrative.