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Prince Harry and ESPN getting desired ‘eyeballs’ with Pat Tillman award controversy


Pat Tillman, poses in a June 2003 photo, released by Photography Plus. Tillman, a Former Arizona Cardinals football player, was killed at age 27 by friendly fire in a firefight in Spera, Afghanistan as part of the U.S. Army Second Ranger Battalion.(AP Photo/Photography Plus via Williamson Stealth Media Solutions)

Even if ESPN can reasonably argue that Prince Harry deserves recognition for his work with the Invictus Games, the network and the renegade British royal can’t avoid the suspicion that they are clamoring for attention by walking into a controversy that everyone — except perhaps Harry — saw coming.

By giving Harry the Pat Tillman Award at its annual ESPSYs awards ceremony Thursday night, the network had to know that the choice would invite backlash and even comparisons between the privileged son of King Charles III and the San Jose-reared football star.

Tillman became an American hero by walking away from a lucrative NFL contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the military after 9/11. The 27-year-old died in a friendly fire incident while serving in Afghanistan in 2004. Harry also did two tours in Afghanistan while serving in the British army from 2005 to 2015, before he returned to royal life.

Pat Tillman, poses in a June 2003 photo, released by Photography Plus. Tillman, a Former Arizona Cardinals football player, was killed at age 27 by friendly fire in a firefight in Spera, Afghanistan as part of the U.S. Army Second Ranger Battalion.(AP Photo/Photography Plus via Williamson Stealth Media Solutions) 

“Prince Harry getting this award has drawn insane eyeballs to this show,” one TV consultant, who works for both ESPN Disney, told The Telegraph. The ESPSYs — which are hosted this year by tennis star Serena Williams, a friend of Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle — will air live on ABC, starting at 8 p.m. Thursday. ABC is owned by Disney, which also owns a controlling interest in ESPN.

“The fact that so many people are talking about Harry and this honor will delight those at the top,” the consultant said.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that EPSN has been struggling financially, with Disney seeing profits for ESPN, its streaming service ESPN+ and its others sports ventures drop 20% through the first nine months of fiscal 2023, it was reported in October. Subscribers for ESPN+ also declined 2% in the second quarter of 2024, Fast Company reported in April.

“They will stand firm on him getting it and also behind closed doors be excited that such a decision has prompted such interest in this night,” the consultant continued. “Like it or loathe it, Harry draws interest and potentially bigger ratings – so they will keep him there.”

As Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, said critically of the choice in a statement to the Daily Mail, Harry has become a “controversial and divisive individual” in both Britain and the United States, since he and Meghan left royal duties in 2020 and moved to her home state of California.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been accused of using their royal associations to garner headlines and lucrative media deals, which have become high-profile vehicles for them to criticize Harry’s family members. Their critics also believe that the couple use their high-profile philanthropic endeavors, such as the Invictus Games, in part for PR purposes and to gather …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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