Rory Fanning, a former army ranger who served alongside ex-NFL player Pat Tillman, told CNN Wednesday he “would be shocked if Pat Tillman wasn’t out there taking a knee with these players.”

Former Arizona State University and Arizona Cardinals football player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman is back in the political spotlight after Nike on Monday revealed the face of its 30th-anniversary campaign: Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, garnered international attention in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to push for racial equality and draw attention to police brutality.

The new ad depicts his face and the quote, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

The ad drew passionate support and opposition on social media, with some promising to buy more Nike products and others posting videos setting their Nikes on fire. 

But among the most consistent themes were comments about how the company should have chosen Tillman’s face instead, and alleging that Tillman would have been opposed to NFL players taking a knee during the anthem.

Political pundits also weighed in, including Fox commentator Stephen Miller, who said the soldier sacrificed “just a bit more” than Kaepernick. 

Others pushed back, saying Tillman would have supported players’ right to peacefully protest or suggesting they leave Tillman out of the debate altogether.

Tillman, an Army Ranger who was initially lauded as a war hero for his death in combat, was killed by friendly fire. 

His family was not informed of this fact until after his nationally televised memorial service, despite several senior Army officials knowing prior to the service.

After they learned of the circumstances of his death, Tillman’s parents and his widow vocally criticized the Army for how they handled the situation. 

They also criticized President Donald Trump when he first referenced Tillman in relation to Kaepernick. 

Marie Tillman, the widow of the former NFL player, released a statement last year saying her husband’s service “should never be politicized in a way that divides us.”

“As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify,” she said. “It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together. Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that. Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day.”

None of Tillman’s family has released any statement in response to the calls on social media for him to be the “Just Do It” face.


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