Speakers for the dead: an analysis of the rhetorical construction of the Pat Tillman death narrative

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University of Alabama Libraries

As a National Football League (NFL) safety for the Arizona Cardinals in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Pat Tillman was known for his physical prowess and leadership capabilities. However, it was his rejection of a $3.6 million dollar NFL contract to join the U.S. military following the 9/11 tragedy that made Tillman a household name. Unfortunately, the American public was thrust into mourning when Tillman lost his life in Afghanistan, on April 22, 2004. In death, Tillman received a nationally televised funeral ceremony and was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star for his actions. Governmental and military reports indicated that Tillman had been killed during a skirmish with enemy forces. Yet, five weeks after telling the American public that Tillman was killed by enemy forces, the Pentagon admitted that the football star perished due to friendly-fire. By analyzing 150 pieces of United States news media, this study attends to the public controversy surrounding the ways that Tillman's death narrative was constructed potentially to advance U.S. foreign policy goals and to articulate the government's concept of the "ideal" American citizen.

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