A statue of Pat Tillman was featured in the Super Bowl 2020 intro ahead of Sunday night’s big game and it’s getting mixed reviews. A young kid with blond hair is running with a football, meeting athletes along his way to Hard Rock Stadium, when he arrives at a bronze statue of Tillman. The kid pauses in front of the statue, which was adorned with flowers and American flags, and takes a moment to seemingly pay his respects to the late army ranger. Tillman, who played for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.
The moment was meant to be touching — and many viewers users felt that way. But many Super Bowl watchers also felt that the imagery was inappropriate. Not long after the intro aired on television, Tillman’s name began to trend on Twitter.
Some Twitter users believed that the commercial was touching, and expressed their emotion at the tribute. Many users even claimed that they cried during the commercial when the young boy stopped at Tillman’s statue.
Take it to the house commercial was amazing. Got teary eyed when they paid tribute to Pat Tillman! Great job #pattillman— Burdick Custom Flags (@BurdickFlags) February 3, 2020
That #PatTillman scene in the opening Super Bowl commercial?— Randy Miller (AbD for an E.D.D.) (@wrmiller1103) February 3, 2020
If you were not weepy a little you have no heart
Others posted emphatic expressions of support for the video.
Former football player Jeremy Staat gave his praise for the commercial as well. Staat — like Tillman — served in the military as well as playing in the NFL. He was a defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as a United States Marine.
I love that the NFL paid tribute to so many Veterans past and present.— Jeremy Staat (@jeremystaat) February 3, 2020
However, some Twitter users voiced their disappointment with the clip.
Though many football fans have bestowed legendary status to the former football star after he turned down a $3.6 million contract to enlist in the Army after the September 11 attacks, one user wrote that Tillman’s widow has claimed that her late husband would have hated the fawning press coverage he has received.
Your reminder that Pat Tillman’s widow has publicly said that he would hate all the shit surrounding him that the NFL does. They just don’t care.— French’s Mustard For Life (@williamzabka42) February 2, 2020
The Twitter user then backed up his claims by citing Jon Krakauer’s biography of the late football star, in which he wrote that Tillman said that he did not want to be a “poster boy” for the NFL should he be killed.
“I don’t want them to parade me through the streets,” he allegedly told a friend (via The New York Times).
But there were other critiques for the video. Writer for GQ Magazine Nathaniel Friedman pointed out that the pose — in which Tillman was screaming with his hair flying behind him — might not have been the best choice for someone who died on the battlefield.
May get killed for this but that Pat Tillman statue in that NFL ad looks like something awful is happening to him. pic.twitter.com/FQ5JLEGhLY— Nathaniel Friedman (@freedarko) February 2, 2020
Others believed that highlighting Pat Tillman was a way to hit back at Colin Kaepernick and his controversial decision to take the knee during the anthem.
Kaepernick, who has claimed that the NFL colluding to keep him out of the league, had been dubbed by many to be “unpatriotic” following his move, which was to protest police brutality (via CBS Sports).
Accordingly, many thought that a commercial — which included a close up shot of the American flags held in Tillman’s hands — was a veiled jab at the social justice activist.
Very aggressive, hostile politics on the part of anti-Kaepernick NFL to exploit the image of the late antiwar activist Pat Tillman, killed by friendly fire— Maria Bustillos (@mariabustillos) February 3, 2020
That said, the response was generally more positive than negative, despite the critiques.
The Tillman video was not the only one that earned some controversy during the Super Bowl. Tom Brady’s long awaited commercial similarly had mixed reactions, as was covered by The Inquisitr.