Pat Tillman's wife wants people to stop using her husband's legacy to fit their agenda

Yahoo Sports
Pat Tillman’s wife addressed why she never comments on how Tillman would have felt about the NFL protests. (AP Photo)
Pat Tillman’s wife addressed why she never comments on how Tillman would have felt about the NFL protests. (AP Photo)

Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman’s wife would like people to stop using her husband’s legacy to fit their political agenda. Tillman — who left the Cardinals to serve in the Army — was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. Shortly after NFL players started kneeling, people began co-opting Tillman’s image to fit different political narratives.

His wife, Marie Tillman, has urged people to stop doing that in a Washington Post article titled “I was Pat Tillman’s wife, but I can’t speak for him. Neither can you.” In the piece, she explains how Tillman has been used to support both sides of the kneeling argument.

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Since last year, I’ve watched from the background as professional athletes have taken a knee to draw attention to injustice and racial inequality in the United States. Pat was in the military, so many people want to attach a brand of blind allegiance to him and use him to argue that kneeling during the national anthem is unpatriotic. Pat was also against the Iraq War, so many others want to use him to argue against American involvement in overseas wars. His essence is bent to fit an agenda.

She then goes on to explain that Tillman was a complex man. She calls him a “free-thinker” who was “outspoken and opinionated,” but also open to change. Because of that, Marie Tillman doesn’t believe it’s right for her to speak for Tillman now. She notes that he changed drastically from the time they met until the time he was killed, and says he likely would have been a different person if he were still alive today.

Instead of speaking for Pat, Marie Tillman expresses her opinion on the issue.

I think that patriotism is complex, like Pat himself. It is not blind or unquestioning. And it’s a fool’s errand to argue over who’s allowed to claim sacrifice. Many of the kneeling athletes say they are protesting as American patriots who want the nation to be better than it is. When I look around at the vitriol aimed at them for expressing their beliefs, and at the compulsion to simplify complicated issues to pit people on opposing sides, I want to kneel, too. Because I believe we are at our best as Americans when we engage in constructive dialogue around our differences with the goal of understanding one another.

She finishes by explaining that she doesn’t know how Pat Tillman would have felt about “race in the United States today or kneeling during the national anthem,” but that he would have been willing to engage in respectful discourse no matter what he believed.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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