Amid the drama surrounding the #TakeAKnee movement, President Donald Trump retweeted a picture of former NFL player Pat Tillman who joined the United States Army Rangers after 9/11, but was killed in friendly fire 13 years ago.
The image of Tillman in his military uniform was accompanied by the caption, “NFL player Pat Tillman joined U.S. Army in 2002. He was killed in action 2004. He fought 4 our country/freedom. #StandForOurAnthem #BoycottNFL.”
While Trump did not pen the tweet himself, his retweet serves as an endorsement of the shameless politicizing of Tillman’s death.
While the terrorist attacks of 9/11 emboldened Tillman to join the military, he learned very early on that the war he was fighting was a sham. According to the Daily Kos, he described the war in Iraq to his friends as “f***ing illegal.”
Furthermore, his legacy was totally manipulated by the government and military officials after he died as they tried to cover up what happened to him by telling the public he was killed during some heroic rescue mission that went awry.
His parents, however, exposed the truth.
“The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons,” said the father, Patrick Tillman, according to Deadspin. “This cover-up started within minutes of Pat’s death, and it started at high levels. This is not something that (lower-ranking) people in the field do.”
“You try to picture, how did my child die? and it keeps changing,” his mother said. “It’s like Pat has died seven times in my head. You think you’re losing your mind for months. They attached themselves to his virtue and then threw him under the bus. They had no regard for him as a person. He’d hate to be used for a lie. I don’t care if they put a bullet through my head in the middle of the night. I’m not stopping.”
This context makes Trump’s retweet especially egregious, as it aims to suggest that Tillman was some flag-waving, overzealous patriot who would side with Trump about standing for the national anthem if he were alive today — which is far from an accurate portrayal of his character.
Additionally, further exploiting Tillman’s death for political leverage is reprehensible, to say the least. Pandering to the American people using someone else’s tragedy is wrong on all accounts, but particularly in this case as it resurrects the scandal and turmoil that surrounded his untimely death in the first place.
After Trump’s retweet of Tillman went viral, his widow, Marie Tillman, spoke out against the politicizing of her late husband.
"As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify," Marie Tillman wrote. "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. Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day."
She added: "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."
On Trump's behalf, this entire stunt serves as a deflection away from the racism at the heart of his opposition to the NFL's #TakeAKnee initiative, which quickly transformed into a resistance movement against him and his vicious attack against the league and its black players.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: REUTERS/Photography Plus C/O Stealth Media Solutions