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Pat Tillman's Widow Pushes Back On Trump NFL Tweet

The widow of Pat Tillman — the NFL player-turned U.S. Army Ranger killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004 — is pushing back against a retweet by President Trump that included an image of her late husband with the hashtags #StandForOurAnthem and #BoycottNFL.

"As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify," Marie Tillman wrote in a statement to CNN. "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."

"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," Marie Tillman said. "Even if they didn't always agree with those views."

Pat Tillman played for the Arizona Cardinals but, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, left to join the U.S. Army in 2002. He was deployed to Iraq and then Afghanistan.

During his U.S. Army service, Tillman reportedly turned critical of the war in Iraq and U.S. motives for the invasion. After his death, the U.S. Army sought to cover up details of his death.

For Trump, the Tillman retweet was part of a barrage of harsh words and tweets directed at the NFL and its players, such as former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who have taken a knee during pregame performances of The Star-Spangled Banner as a protest against racial inequality.

Speaking at a rally Friday in Alabama, the president said he would "love to see" NFL owners fire any player who "disrespects our flag."

"'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired,'" Trump said Friday.

That prompted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to issue a statement calling the president's remarks "divisive," and scores of players, coaches and owners to kneel before and during the national anthem in a show of unity. Some fans have shown support, others booed during the pregame displays.

But Trump simply doubled down in several bursts of tweets — at least 19 since Saturday — over the anthem controversy. They were interspersed amid insults directed at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and criticism of Sen. John McCain for failing to support the latest Republican plan to repeal Obamacare.

One of several from Tuesday morning included:

It's not the only fight the president has picked with professional athletes. After Stephen Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and coach Steve Kerr said they did not want to go to the White House to meet with Trump, the president tweeted Saturday:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.