Former Washington Redskin running back Stephen Davis is pursued by former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman on December 24, 2000 in Landover, Maryland. File photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo
The widow of former NFL player and U.S. Army serviceman Pat Tillman told CNN in a statement that she doesn't wish for the memory of her husband to be politicized.
"As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify," Marie Tillman told CNN. "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."
Pat Tillman, a safety, elected to step away from his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals and join the U.S. Army in 2002. He was killed in action in 2004 at the age of 27.
Marie Tillman's statement to CNN came on the heels of President Donald Trump retweeting a Twitter account that invoked the memory of Pat Tillman and included the hashtags "StandForOurAnthem" and "BoycottNFL."
"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. 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."
Trump raised emotions within the NFL ranks with his comments on Friday.
"If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!" Trump said.
In response, most league and team owners or executives, along with numerous players, condemned Trump's remarks with official statements or through social media.