Prince Harry’s ‘Best Way out’ of the ESPY Award Controversy Is Through His Acceptance Speech

Apparently, there’s a pretty simple “way out” of all the ESPY award drama for Prince Harry. A commentator says the Duke of Sussex can sidestep the controversy surrounding his being named the 2024 recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service. How exactly? By using his acceptance speech to showcase someone else. 

Harry’s ‘stunned’ by the Pat Tillman Award for Service backlash

ESPN is honoring Harry at the 2024 ESPY Awards on July 11, 2024. He’ll receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service for his work with the Invictus Games. Harry founded the sporting competition for wounded veterans in 2014. 

Named after the late NFL player who left professional sports to enlist in the military and later died in combat, the award spotlights Tillman’s legacy and someone who has used sports to positively impact others. 

The backlash started almost immediately after ESPN announced Harry would be receiving the award. Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, expressed her unhappiness, describing Harry as a “controversial and divisive individual” to the Daily Mail.

Others have since criticized ESPN. The organization issued a statement on the matter, standing by its decision to give Harry the award. 

All of it has, as a source told the Telegraph, left Harry feeling “stunned.” The fallout, they claimed, has been a “bitter pill to swallow” for Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, whose close friend, Serena Williams, is hosting the ESPYs. 

“Harry’s legacy on Invictus, the things he has achieved, that’s his real passion,” the insider said. They also likened the drama to what happened in January 2024 when the duke was inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation Hall of Fame.

“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.”

An option for Harry is to dedicate the award to an ‘unsung hero’

Prince Harry, who can use ESPY award speech to 'get out' of controversy, speaks at the Invictus Games
Prince Harry | Joshua Sammer/Getty Images for Invictus Games Dusseldorf 2023

On the July 9 episode of the “Royal Report” podcast, host and royal correspondent Jack Royston suggested a way “out” of the controversy for Harry. While he said it’s likely too late to decline the award—the ceremony’s on July 11, 2024, in California—Harry still has options left.

Royston told listeners that the duke could make his acceptance speech about the Invictus Games and the veterans who participate in the competition, which he founded in 2014. 

Harry’s attendance at the ESPYs hasn’t been confirmed, meaning he could go to the awards show in person or accept the honor in a pre-recorded video. 

“What he could do is actually try to dedicate it to an unsung hero,” he said (via Newsweek). “Perhaps a member of the U.S. Invictus team who he feels deserves the honor?” 

“He could use his speech to just shine a spotlight on that person and all the incredible things they’ve done, which he could explain and describe in his speech and really actually dedicate this award to them.” 

Another is for Harry to bring them to ESPYs and hand over the award on stage 

The commentator continued. He suggested Harry could take it a step further by having the person there. That way, he could “physically give” them the award.

“I think at this stage, that’s probably the best way out for him,” Royston said. “And you know, if he were to pitch this to ESPN, it might work for them too. Because, you know, they’re a bit under the cosh (pressure) as well.”

Harry would “ideally” say in his speech, “‘Look, I’m really so grateful to ESPN and to the ESPYs for giving me this award. And wanting to shine a spotlight on Invictus because it’s an important project.’” 

“‘But really, Invictus has always been about the veterans who serve. It’s never been about me; it’s never been about a royal family member getting all of the attention.” 

“‘It’s always been about putting the attention on the people who matter, which is the competitors. And, the spirit of Invictus is about them and their struggle and battle to not be defeated by their injuries.’

“If he could do that, he could try and turn this back around into a positive.” It would mean “he’s kind of sacrificing himself in order to actually pick the person who maybe should have got it to begin with,” Royston concluded. 

The ESPYs will be broadcast live on ABC on July 11, 2024, at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT.

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