Prince Harry “Has No Plans on Turning Down” the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs, “Despite Reports to the Contrary”

Harry is being honored for his work with the Invictus Games at the awards ceremony in Los Angeles tomorrow night.

Prince Harry
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tomorrow night is the ESPY Awards, and, despite backlash and controversy over Prince Harry being named the winner of the Pat Tillman Award for Service, Us Weekly reports that Harry “has no plans on turning down” the award, “despite reports to the contrary.”

Prince Harry

Harry, who served for a decade in the British Army, is said to be "stunned" by the backlash to his selection.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The award “recognizes a person with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the late Tillman’s legacy,” the outlet reports. Tillman played in the NFL but, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States, enlisted as an Army Ranger and was serving in Afghanistan when he was killed by friendly fire in 2004. He was just 27 years old.

Pat Tillman

Tillman was just 27 years old when he died in Afghanistan in 2004.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As Marie Claire reported yesterday, Harry is reportedly “stunned” at the backlash and finds it a “bitter pill to swallow”; a petition has circulated about how Harry isn’t the correct recipient of the award, and Tillman’s own mother, Mary Tillman, told The Daily Mail that she thought there were “far more fitting” individuals who should have won the award.

Harry as the recipient of the award is certainly not without reason: in addition to serving 10 years in the British Army—including two tours of duty in Afghanistan—Harry founded the Invictus Games in 2014 to help wounded, sick, and injured servicemen and servicewomen, both veterans and those still serving, find community through sport. The Games just celebrated its 10-year anniversary in May, and at the upcoming 2025 Games in Canada, will expand its reach to winter sports for the first time.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Invictus Games One Year To Go Event on February 14, 2024 in Whistler, Canada.

Harry and Meghan attended the Invictus Games One Year to Go event in Canada earlier this year.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When the Games head to Vancouver and Whistler next year, Harry said in a message he is excited to see competitors “passion, determination, and resilience on full display as they take on this new chapter,” per The Mirror.

He continued by adding “Congratulations to those selected for Team U.K. for our first-ever Winter Invictus Games in Vancouver/Whistler next February,” he said. “Team U.K. will join over 500 competitors from across 20 nations in this groundbreaking event that expands the range and profile of winter adaptive sports.”

He added that “These Games present an incredible opportunity for our courageous service personnel and veterans to demonstrate their skills in new challenges like alpine skiing, snowboarding, and skeleton, as well as providing a truly memorable experience for their families.”

: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Invictus Games One Year To Go Event on February 14, 2024 in Whistler, Canada.

This will be the first time that the Games have expanded to include winter sports.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Harry’s message comes after The Telegraph reported that backlash to the Tillman Award—as well as the Living Legend of Aviation Award he received earlier this year—“presents a pressing problem” as Harry “seeks to build a career upon the foundations of his past military endeavors.”

The Invictus Games have long been considered the work of Harry’s life, and ESPN recognized that in naming Harry the Tillman Award recipient; the network said it chose Harry for “his tireless work in making a positive impact for the veteran community through the power of sport.”

Prince Harry

The Invictus Games are Harry's passion project and represent the work of his life.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After Harry’s selection was lambasted, ESPN doubled down, defending Harry and telling TMZ Sports in a statement “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.”

Meghan Markle is expected to join Harry at tomorrow’s ceremony, held nearby their Montecito home in Los Angeles. It will air at 8 p.m. on ABC and will be hosted by Meghan’s close friend, tennis legend Serena Williams.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.