SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU, AP) - Nike's controversial endorsement deal with Colin Kaepernick is putting a renewed spotlight on Pat Tillman, the San Jose native who quit the NFL to join the Army after the Sept. 11th attacks. He was later killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.
The new Kaepernick ad depicts the face of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback with a campaign slogan, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
The ad unveiled on Monday prompted heated debate on social media with many questioning Nike's decision to back an athlete known mainly for starting a wave of protests among NFL players of police brutality, racial inequality and other social issues.
Many opponents took the opportunity to suggest someone like Pat Tillman, a fallen soldier was a better example of someone who truly demonstrated what "sacrificing everything" meant.
Pat Tillman was a NFL football player that quit the NFL to join the army after 9/11. In 2004 he died in Afghanistan due to friendly fire. pic.twitter.com/qUbOYn7R87— KEEM 🍿 (@KEEMSTAR) September 4, 2018
Others objected to using Tillman's name in this debate with some noting that he would have stood up for players' rights to engage in a peaceful protest.
Just putting it out there that Pat Tillman vehemently opposed everything you stand for and you're garbage for invoking him or any other dead soldier to further the idea that peaceful protest is anything other than patriotic https://t.co/Lw1REhhnnW— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) September 4, 2018
Last year, Tillman's widow issued in a statement saying that her husband and the many other Americans that have given their lives for the country believed in "The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one's heart - no matter those views."
Marie Tillman's comments came after after President Trump retweeted an account referencing Pat Tillman and using the hashtag #StandForOurAnthem, criticizing NFL players for kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner."
In her statement, Marie Tillman also said that her husband's service "should never be politicized in a way that divides us."