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Trump retweets picture of Pat Tillman to urge NFL players to stand for national anthem

President Donald Trump used a picture of Pat Tillman to urge NFL players to abandon protests during the national anthem

tillman statue cropped.jpg

ASU redshirt sophomore quarterback Brady White (2) and senior long snapper Mitchell Fraboni (63) take a moment to pay respect to Sun Devil football brother Pat Tillman before taking the field for warm ups at Sun Devil Stadium inTempe, Arizona, on Aug. 31, 2017.

President Donald Trump retweeted an image of Pat Tillman, a U.S. Army Ranger and former ASU and Arizona Cardinals player who was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, on Monday, calling for professional football players to stand for the national anthem. 

This comes after hundreds of NFL players took a knee or linked arms in protest on Sunday during the anthem. Many of the players' actions were in response to Trump’s comments made during a speech in Alabama calling for NFL players who protest the anthem to be suspended or fired. 

This retweet invoking Tillman irked those who were close to Tillman, most notably Dave Zirin of The Nation, who personally worked with Tillman’s family following his death.

Zirin tweeted that Tillman would have “hated” those who use his memory to bash Colin Kaepernick and other football players who kneel in protest. 

Zirin tweeted that he has spoken with those who served with Tillman and that they all agree that Tillman would kneel beside Kaepernick, rather than call for him to stand. 

Tillman's widow released a statement to CNN's Brian Stelter following Trump's retweet, saying that Tillman's service "should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that."

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Tillman quit playing in the NFL and enlisted as a U.S. Army Ranger. He was killed in a friendly-fire incident on April 22, 2004. Since his death, he has become a symbol of unity in the military and the NFL. 

During the 2016 season, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem to protest racial injustice. Following this protest, Tillman’s likeness began appearing on social media. Many said that Kaepernick and others protesting during the anthem are a disgrace to Tillman and others who died fighting for our country. 

Rodney Hero, professor of politics and global studies at ASU, said that every form of participation in the anthem can be considered a political statement – even standing. 

"It's affirming certain ideas or notions of patriotism," Hero said.

Zirin and others have pointed out that Tillman was an open liberal, repeatedly called the war in Iraq illegal and had continuous correspondence with his favorite author Noam Chomsky, a leading figure of progressive ideologies. 

In January, Tillman's widow posted on Facebook about her disappointment in Trump's travel ban. Zirin and others have therefore concluded that Tillman would support Kaepernick and others in their peaceful protest. 

Some veterans have created the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick to lend support to the former 49ers quarterback. These veterans say they fought for everybody’s First Amendment right to stand or kneel and protest peacefully.

Tillman played football at Arizona State frome 1994 to 1997 and then was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals 1998. His alma mater erected a bronze statue of his likeness at Sun Devil Stadium in August to commemorate his life and legacy.

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