Thu. Jul 25th, 2024
alert-–-prince-harry-should-turn-down-‘sporting-oscars’-gong-that-honours-us-war-hero,-military-chiefs-say:-ex-navy-boss-lord-west-says-duke-should-‘think-long-and-hard’-about-accepting-award-because-it-‘wont-travel-well’-with-members-of-armed-forcesAlert – Prince Harry should turn down ‘sporting Oscars’ gong that honours US war hero, military chiefs say: Ex Navy boss Lord West says duke should ‘think long and hard’ about accepting award because it ‘wont travel well’ with members of Armed Forces

Prince Harry has been warned by a top defence chief to turn down an award named after an American war hero killed in Afghanistan, or face the wrath of military veterans.

Admiral Lord Alan West lashed out at the Duke of Sussex, 39, who is due to be honoured with the Pat Tillman Award for Service for his Invictus Games work at the glitzy ESPY Awards in Los Angeles on July 11.

The 2024 ESPYS will be hosted by tennis legend Serena Williams – a close friend of Meghan Markle.

Lord West, the former head of the Royal Navy, warned Harry accepting such an accolade ‘doesn’t travel well with people in the military’ and urged him to turn it down – as backlash over the royal’s latest award continues to build.

The Labour peer, who previously branded Harry ‘pathetic’ after he was named as a ‘Living Legend of Aviation’ in another US award, said: ‘He ought to think very hard and long about accepting awards for things like being an exceptional pilot and being exceptionally brave.

‘Some of the blame must lie with ESPN. They like picking him because it gives them immense publicity. But this is rather bad publicity for Harry.

‘I really think Harry should be well advised to sit back and not accept awards like this. It doesn’t travel well with people in the military. And when the mother of the man who died doesn’t want him to get this award, he should think about that.

‘My advice to him is to sit back and not accept any awards at the moment. They are going his way because has such a high profile and people want to take advantage of that.’

Mr Tillman, an American football star who gave up a £3million contract to enlist in the US Army after 9/11, had his life tragically cut short at the age of 27 when he was killed in friendly fire while serving in Afghanistan 20 years ago.

His mother Mary, who said she was not consulted about Prince Harry being given the award bearing her son’s name, told the Mail last week: ‘I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award.

‘There are recipients that are far more fitting. 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. I feel that those types of individuals should be recognised.’

The ESPY Awards (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) is run by the sports TV network ESPN and the Pat Tillman Award has previously been given to unsung heroes.

Last year it went to members of the Buffalo Bills American football team training staff who revived a dying player on the field.

ESPN said Harry was being honoured for his ‘tireless work in making a positive impact for the veteran community through the power of sport’ with his Invictus Games.

But the decision to honour him has led to a backlash.

Sources told The Telegraph that it is a ‘bitter pill to swallow’ when the Duke of Sussex is criticised about anything relating to his military record and work with veterans.

They also said he was stunned by the backlash. 

‘Harry’s legacy on Invictus, the things he has achieved, that’s his real passion,’ they said. ‘This is the space in which he truly feels at home, it is something he deeply cares about. The reaction certainly took the shine off the award.’

Harry and Meghan’s biographer Tom Bower has said the vitriol over handing the exiled British royal the gong shows there is increasing ‘antagonism’ towards the Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan across the Atlantic.

And veteran royal expert Phil Dampier said: ‘It’s ironic that the thing which really kept Prince Harry’s feet on the ground and in touch with reality was his military service. The fact he is stunned by that shows how remote and out of touch he has become’.

Mr Bower said the backlash over the Pat Tillman Award is yet more proof that the Sussexes are losing the PR battle in the US – at a time when the couple are desperately trying to relaunch their personal brand in America.

‘The backlash will make it more difficult for Harry’s team to get awards in the future’, he said.

‘Prince Harry inhabits a gilded bubble seemingly unaware about the deep antagonism he and his wife have created. It’s become normal for his staff to lobby for important awards to shore up his reputation’.

Royal expert Phil Dampier told : ‘During his years in the army, his time in Afghanistan and setting up the Invictus Games he found the comradeship and sense of purpose which meant he could relate to his friends and fellow servicemen on their level.

‘He was just another soldier and not a Prince.

‘Unfortunately in the last five or six years he has entered a different world, a false world of showbiz premieres, easy money and distorted media interviews and he has lost his common touch.

‘He should have realised, or certainly his PR people should have realised, that this award would look out of place and annoy some veterans and their families, and there would be a backlash.

‘He needs to learn from this experience and take stock and think much deeper in future about what baubles and prizes he accepts.

‘It’s easy to blame Meghan for keeping him away from his old friends and contacts but ultimately it’s down to him.

‘He needs to earn them, not just have them served up so that he can move in certain circles and feel good about himself’.

Harry also won a Living Legend of Aviation Award at an glittering bash in Beverley Hills in January, where he was inducted alongside Apollo 11 hero Buzz Aldrin.

As he joined the likes of astronauts Aldrin and James Lovell in picking up the prestigious award, Admiral Lord West brutally said: ‘He is not a living legend’. 

In April, Prince Harry wore his British military medals on his chest as he presented Sergeant First Class Elizabeth Marks, a friend from the Invictus movement, with the US Soldier of the Year Award.

The latest backlash began almost straight after ESPN announced on June 27 that Harry would be given the Pat Tillman Award for Service.

A petition to urge ESPN to reassess its decision boasted almost 68,000 signatures in ten days.

It said: ‘Pat Tillman exemplified duty, honour, and sacrifice.’

‘He gave up his successful NFL career to serve his country after the 9/11 attacks, and tragically lost his life during his service. Awarding this honour to someone who does not reflect the award’s intent diminishes its value and disrespects Tillman’s memory.’

Former NFL player Pat McAfee also waded in, saying: ‘We should celebrate sports. The worldwide leaders should celebrate sport but doing something like this is obviously trying to p*** people off.’

He said they should create a new category just for the duke. ‘How about it’s like ESPY for Royal Family member who doesn’t want to be called ‘Royal Family member’ who loves sports?’

Jake Wood, a former Pat Tillman Award winner, later defended Prince Harry on TMZ Live, saying: ‘He’s a royal prince, there’s 100 different things he could have done with his life after his service in the British Armed Forces but he’s chosen to dedicate a big portion of his post-military life to helping veterans.’

Pat Tillman was hailed in the US after giving up his lucrative career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist as an Army Ranger.

He served in Iraq and then Afghanistan, where he was killed by friendly fire in 2004. He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for bravery.

A spokesman for ESPN previously said: ‘ESPN, with the support of the Tillman Foundation, is honouring 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.

‘While we understand not everyone will agree with all honourees selected for any award, The Invictus Games Foundation does incredible work and ESPN believes this is a cause worth celebrating.’

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