Arizona Cardinal safety Pat Tillman, who lost his life serving our country, has been a favorite for both sides of the political aisle. Though, now his wife is pleading for both sides to just stop.
In an article in the Washington Post, Marie Tillman is demanding that people stop using her husband to support either side of the NFL national anthem kneeling issue.
In her November 9 article, entitled “I Was Pat Tillman’s Wife, But I Can’t Speak For Him. Neither Can You,” Tillman says she is tired of seeing her husband’s “essence” being “bent to fit an agenda.”
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.
Marie Tillman warned that her husband had complicated feelings and ideas and “there was nothing about him that fit into a neat category.”
“He was an athlete who didn’t really pay much attention to sports. He was outspoken and opinionated, but a convincing argument could change his views. His nuanced thinking was what I loved most about Pat,” she continued, “that he could love his country so much that he would sacrifice his life to protect it, but also so much that he could challenge it.”
Tillman also said that her husband was always thinking about the nation’s issues and challenging even his own views over current events. And with that being said, she resists saying what Pat would have thought about something just occurring in the news today. With his death already 14 years in the past, Tillman says that she can’t say what view her husband would have today. “He was very different when we got together at 16 from who he was at 27, and he would have been different, too, at 42,” she said.
Tillman then insisted, “We should be able to respect his willingness to sacrifice for what he believed in without looking at it through the lens of today’s divisive political climate.”
With that in mind, she said she would continue to refuse to speak to what her husband would think of current events and noted that Pat’s patriotism was neither blind nor unquestioning.
Tillman then slammed those who disagree with NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem.
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.
The player’s wife added that “divisive rhetoric will only deepen the chasm and make us forget all that we share.”
“Pat lived his life with passion and respected this quality in others,” Tillman wrote, “once writing that, ‘to err on the side of passion is human and right and the only way I’ll live.'”
She ended her piece pleading for a “conversation.”
I can’t say how Pat would have felt about race in the United States today or kneeling during the national anthem. But I can say that he would have engaged in thoughtful and respectful discourse, never shying away from the nuance, never taking the easy way, and looking, always, for a conversation instead of a fight.
Marie Tillman is speaking only for herself and not her husband. And she wants the rest of us to do the same.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.