There’s been a debate lately over whether Pat Tillman belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Why is this an issue?
If anyone belongs in pro football’s equivalent of Valhalla, it’s Tillman, a 2000 Pro Bowler who in 2002 turned down a contract offer from the Cards for $3.6 million over three years to join the military nine months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. And he didn’t get a job in the rear, either.
Tillman served in the initial invasion of Iraq, then made it through Ranger school before going to Afghanistan, where, on April 22, 2004, he was killed by friendly fire during a firefight near the Pakistan border.
The details of Tillman’s death remain controversial. So, in a sense, was Tillman, who thought the invasion of Iraq was illegal and didn’t like being used as a poster boy for the cause, according to various publications. He also was a critic of then-President George W. Bush.
None of that should matter. Tillman was a man who saw his duty in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and did it.
If that’s not a Hall of Fame resume, what is?
Some of those opposed to Tillman’s inclusion in the Hall say it would cheapen his service. Others, such as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, note that 24 NFL players died serving in the military. Do they also belong in the Hall, he asks.
The short answer, and the right answer, is yes. Otherwise, there’s a hole in the NFL Hall of Fame where its real heroes should be.
Jeff Whitten writes about sports for the Courier.