Decision to honor Prince Harry with Pat Tillman Award criticized by mother of late soldier

(LEFT) Arizona Cardinals Pat Tillman (40) casual before game at Sun Devil Stadium. (Photo by Gene Lower /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (RIGHT) Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (wearing a Household Division regimental tie) attends The Invictus Game

The mother of Pat Tillman, a fallen soldier and promising NFL player, criticized ESPN for its decision to honor Prince Harry with an award named in his honor. 

Last week, ESPN announced that the royal would be this year's recipient of the esteemed Pat Tillman Award for Service – a decision that "shocked" Tillman's mother.

"I am shocked as to why they would select such a controversial and divisive individual to receive the award," Mary "Dannie" Tillman told The DailyMail. "There are recipients that are far more fitting. There are individuals working in the veteran community that are doing tremendous things to assist veterans."

"These individuals do not have the money, resources, connections or privilege that Prince Harry has. I feel that those types of individuals should be recognized," she said.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service is given each year to someone with a connection to sports to positively impact the lives of others – echoing Tillman’s legacy. 

Tillman, a former Arizona Cardinal, died in combat in Afghanistan due to friendly fire in 2004. He famously turned down a multiyear contract and upwards of $3 million to enlist in the Army after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

Last year, the Buffalo Bills training staff received the honor for their efforts that saved Damar Hamlin's life after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

RELATED: Damar Hamlin breaks down in tears during award tribute to Buffalo Bills training staff at ESPYS

The Pat Tillman Foundation – which Mary is not associated with – has been selecting recipients since the award was established in 2014. Mary has never been consulted or privy to recipients in the past, according to FOX News. 

Harry served in the British army for 10 years. In receiving the award, he is being recognized for his work with the Invictus Games – an international sporting event for wounded servicemen and women. He launched the international event in 2014, one year before stepping down from active duty.

A spokesperson for ESPN responded to criticism from Tillman’s mother in a statement to FOX News Digital.

"ESPN, with the support of the Tillman Foundation, is honoring Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, specifically for the work of The Invictus Games Foundation as it celebrates its 10th year promoting healing through the power of sport for military service members and veterans around the world," the statement said. 

"While we understand not everyone will agree with all honorees selected for any award, The Invictus Games Foundation does incredible work and ESPN believes this is a cause worth celebrating," it added.

The upcoming Invictus Games will be held this month in Düsseldorf, Germany.

After learning he would be receiving the award, the Duke of Sussex said, "This one is for our entire service community," according to People Magazine. 

Harry will accept the honor at the 2024 ESPY Awards on July 11.

FOX News contributed to this story.