Prince Harry breaks silence in an emotional message before accepting controversial award at ESPY

Prince Harry’s path to the award stage isn’t paved with roses and cheers this year. Ahead of accepting the Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYs, the Duke of Sussex has released an emotional message. While the details of the award itself have sparked debate, Harry’s message seems to focus on a cause close to his heart: supporting wounded, injured, and sick veterans. This follows the increasing criticism and backlash Prince Harry has faced after being honoured for founding the Invictus Games ten years ago.

Prince Harry’s message ahead of receiving the Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYs (AFP)

Prince Harry’s emotional message for his 64-strong squad

Leading up to the ESPYs on July 11th, where he’s expected to be honoured with a controversial award, Harry has finally spoken out. His message, however, steers clear of the award and instead celebrates the UK’s participation in the first-ever Winter Invictus Games. “Team UK will join over 500 competitors from across 20 nations in this groundbreaking event that expands the range and profile of winter adaptive sports.”

This 64-member team, made up of wounded veterans and active service personnel, is preparing for the competition in February. The Duke expressed his excitement highlighting the team’s “passion, determination, and resilience” as they embark on this new challenge.

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“Congratulations to those selected for Team UK for our first-ever Winter Invictus Games in Vancouver Whistler next February. Team UK will join over 500 competitors from across 20 nations in this groundbreaking event that expands the range and profile of winter adaptive sports.” Harry said in a message as per The Mirror UK.

Prince Harry’s Invictus milestone

The big news comes just a month after the Duke returned to London to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his Invictus Games, an initiative hailed worldwide. Despite choosing to step down from his royal role, the youngest son of King Charles continued to serve veterans and those injured in war alongside their families, showcasing his love and respect for the army. The initiative was established by him in 2014. The selected team reportedly comprise individuals from various services and different generations. Some of these individuals are grappling with challenging physical and mental injuries.

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The Duke further added, “These games present an incredible opportunity for our courageous service personnel and veterans to demonstrate their skills in new challenges like alpine skiing, snowboarding and skeleton, as well as providing a truly memorable experience for their families.”

What is Prince Harry’s award controversy?

The selection of Prince Harry to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service didn’t sit well with many including Tillman’s mother Mary. Named after former NFL player and US Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, the award honours those who embody service. However, the announcement of Harry as the recipient generated backlash. Reacting to the news Mary Tillman said, “I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award.”

The Duke has been embroiled in controversy since making critical remarks about his UK royal family in a Netflix documentary and his book, Spare. However, a source told the Mirror that criticism regarding his work with veterans is a “particularly bitter pill to swallow”.

“Harry’s legacy on Invictus, the things he has achieved, that’s his real passion. 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,” the insider revealed adding that Harry was ‘stunned’ to see negative reactions.

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