After a weekend filled with athletes taking a knee during the national anthem in a silent protest against racism, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday morning to reaffirm his belief their actions disrespect the country.
Trump also retweeted a photo by user @jayMAGA45 of former NFL player Pat Tillman, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002.
In 2004, Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident, which was initially misreported by the Department of Defense as an enemy fire incident.
When Colin Kaepernick began demonstrating in 2016, Tillman posthumously came into the spotlight, appropriated by right-wing bloggers who said that by refusing to stand for the national anthem, athletes were disrespecting what Tillman died for. One of the most popular posts on the pro-Trump subreddit r/The_Donald frames Tillman as someone who “believed in something but instead of taking a knee, fought for it.”
Absent from the conversation among conservative circles, however, are Tillman’s personal politics. Those who served with Tillman in Iraq and Afghanistan say he was vehemently against former U.S. president George W. Bush and called the war “so fucking illegal.” Tillman was also an atheist and maintained correspondence with one of his favorite authors, Noam Chomsky.
After Trump announced the travel ban against majority-Muslim countries, Tillman’s widow took to Facebook to say “this was not the country he dreamed, not what he served and died for.”
Tillman’s family still feels they haven’t received closure from his death. Many believe his death was covered up in order to protect the military’s image. Five weeks after Tillman’s death was reported as enemy fire, the Army later admitted that officers in his chain of command knew almost immediately that he had been shot accidentally by one of their own.
“They weren’t shortfalls. They weren’t missteps and they weren’t errors,” Mary Tillman, Pat Tillman’s mother told CNN in 2010. “They were deliberate attempts to cover up what happened in order for them to use Pat’s death for propaganda purposes at a time during the war in 2004 when [the] Abu Ghraib Prison scandal was breaking … it was a terrible time for the military and for that administration, and Pat’s death was an opportunity for them.”
In the wake of these protests many veterans have posted their support for athletes choosing to kneel during the anthem, making the argument that they fought for everyone’s right to either sit or stand.