In the wake of Nike’s announcement that the face of its 13th anniversary celebration of its “Just Do It” campaign would be that of Colin Kaepernick, conservatives who *dislike* the NFL anthem protests he spearheaded have been speaking out on social media, destroying their Nike memorabilia in protest.
Some critics of Kaepernick are now invoking the name Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals football player and Army Ranger, was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire in 2004, as someone who was more deserving of being the ad campaign’s poster boy.
Why promote someone who blames racism for the fact he can't compete in the NFL?
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) September 4, 2018
But people using Tillman’s name as a tool to undermine Nike’s honoring of Kaepernick have a short memory.
In September of last year, President Trump brought up Tillman in his attacks on NFL protesters by retweeting an account that used Tillman’s name and face to praise Trump’s attacks on players who choose to ‘take a knee.’ In a statement to CNN, Tillman’s widow, Marie Tillman, reminded Trump and his supporters that her deceased husband “inspired countless Americans to unify.”
As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify,” Marie said. “It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together.
Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that,” she wrote, subtly invoking Trump’s “make America great again” slogan.
Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy,” she wrote. “They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day. The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn’t always agree with those views.
It is my sincere hope that our leaders both understand and learn from the lessons of Pat’s life and death, and also those of so many other brave Americans.
In the wake of his death, the George W. Bush administration tried to use Tillman as a symbol of heroism in the War on Terror. But he was hardly someone who promoted conservative talking points. According to the book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, by Jon Krakauer, Tillman, along with his brother Kevin, held strong views that were highly critical of U.S. wars in the Middle East after 9/11.
The war “struck them as an imperial folly that was doing long-term damage to US interests”, Krakauer claims.
“The brothers lamented how easy it had been for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to bully secretary of state Colin Powell, both the houses of Congress, and the majority of the American people into endorsing the invasion of Iraq.”
It later emerged that the Pentagon had withheld the fact that Tillman was shot by fellow Rangers in an act described as “gross negligence”.