Prince Harry breaks silence with emotional message amid backlash over controversial award

Prince Harry breaks silence with emotional message amid backlash over controversial award

Prince Harry has spoken out for the first time since it was revealed he will be receiving the Pat Tillman Award at the ESPY Awards tonight by sending a message to both serving military personnel and veterans

Prince Harry in the UK last month

Prince Harry in the UK last month (
Image: (Image: Getty))

Prince Harry has sent a message to both serving military personnel and veterans just a day before he is set to receive a controversial award.

Tomorrow night, the Duke of Sussex will be given the Pat Tillman Award at the ESPY sports awards in the US. He is being recognised for founding the Invictus Games a decade ago to support injured and sick servicemen and women, both on active duty and veterans, who are navigating physical and invisible injuries – but has faced backlash being named as this year’s recipient. However, ahead of tonight’s awards, Harry has spoken out for the first time by hailing wounded, injured and sick serving UK personnel and veterans who are to take part in the first Invictus Games to include winter sports

Harry and Meghan at the Invictus Games last year
Harry and Meghan at the Invictus Games last year 


Image:
PA Archive/PA Images)
A 64-strong squad, made up of 60 competitors and four reserves, has been named as Team UK for the Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler in February. And the Duke said in a message he is excited “to see their passion, determination, and resilience on full display as they take on this new chapter”. The Invictus Games was established in 2014 by Harry as an international adaptive multi-sport event for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans to participate in as part of their recovery journey.

Harry said: “Congratulations to those selected for Team UK for our first-ever Winter Invictus Games in Vancouver Whistler next February. Team UK will join over 500 competitors from across 20 nations in this groundbreaking event that expands the range and profile of winter adaptive sports.

“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. We’re excited to see their passion, determination, and resilience on full display as they take on this new chapter.”

The team includes people from all services and of different generations, some of whom are facing challenging physical and mental injuries sustained while serving the UK either at home or abroad. They have a range of injuries including visual impairment, amputation, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD and mental health issues – and have been selected based on the benefit that training for, and competing at the games, will contribute towards their recovery

Harry founded the Invictus Games in 2014
Harry founded the Invictus Games in 2014 
Image:
PA)


Among those making the team are captain, Stephen ‘Hoops’ Hooper, is returning for his second Invictus Games after competing in powerlifting and sitting volleyball at Dusseldorf in 2023. Hoops, who served in the RAF and was diagnosed with PTSD before being medically discharged in 2021. Another is Juliet Bale, 54, whoserved as a nurse in the RAF and Army before being medically discharged after sustaining a traumatic brain injury on operation in Kenya.

Louise Assioun, the Royal British Legion’s Team UK manager, said: “For the selected individuals, being part of a team again, representing their country and being around others who are all on their individual recovery pathway is what makes Team UK’s journey to the Invictus Games so unique. The Royal British Legion is proud to support them every step of the way.”

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

A source told the publication that when criticism relates to his work with veterans it is a “particularly bitter pill to swallow”. They added: “Harry’s legacy on Invictus, the things he has achieved, that’s his real passion. 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.”

The Pat Tillman Award for Service is named after former NFL player and US Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. However, news that he is to receive the award saw him face backlash with a petition launched on change.org urging ESPN to rethink giving him the honour while Tillman’s mother Mary also spoke out saying: “I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award.”

Past recipients of the Pat Tillman Award include footballer Marcus Rashford, who waged a high-profile campaign to persuade the Government to provide free meals to vulnerable youngsters in England through the school holidays during the Covid pandemic.

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