After President Donald Trump invoked the death of late U.S. Army Ranger and former NFL star Pat Tillman's death to support Trump's criticism of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality, Pat's widow Marie Tillman stated that her husband served and died for Americans' right to protest.
On Sept. 22, Trump called for NFL players who protested against police brutality during the U.S. national anthem to be fired, The Hill reports.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: 'Get that son of a b***h off the field. Out! He's fired! He's fired!'" Trump said during a rally in Alabama.
On Sept. 25, Trump retweeted a social media post that called for an NFL boycott and cited Tillman's memory. The president had spent the weekend tweeting that protesting during the national anthem was disrespectful to U.S. military service members.
"NFLplayer PatTillman joined U.S. Army in 2002," the tweet stated. "He was killed in action 2004. He fought 4our country/freedom."
Later that evening, Marie released an official statement in response to the president's retweet.
"As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify," Marie said, according to CNN. "It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together."
Pat had been a NFL football player for the Arizona Cardinals. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, he enlisted in the Army and died in a friendly-fire incident in 2004 during a tour in Afghanistan. It was later revealed during an investigation that Army officials had attempted to obfuscate the circumstances of the football star's death.
Marie asked U.S. leaders not to invoke her late husband's name for political purposes.
"Pat's service, along with that of every man and woman's service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us," Marie continued. "We are too great of a country for that."
The widow concluded: "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."
Tillman held progressive political views and was a critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq War, according to The Kansas City Star.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, another critic of the Iraq War, charged on social media that Trump had "crassly exploited [Tillman] in defense of his war against the right to dissent."