Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh Stands up for American Sniper Being Shown on Campus
My colleague Stephen Kruiser wrote yesterday of a decision by the University of Michigan not to show the film American Sniper because of protests from students and faculty. They sent a letter to the administration claiming:
"The movie 'American Sniper’ not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim and anti-MENA [Muslim, Middle Eastern and North African] rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer," the letter read in part. "Chris Kyle was a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians."
MENA, SHMENA -- the film was protested because it made Muslims the bad guys and Americans the good guys.
Thankfully, the administration changed its mind and the film will now be screened on campus. And if all that pro-American violence upsets you, the school has the film Paddington being shown at the same time.
The cancellation drew a strong reaction, and The Michigan Daily reported that a third-year Law School student named Rachel Jankowski circulated a petition calling on the university's Center for Campus Involvement to restore "American Sniper" to the UMix schedule. The university's football coach, Jim Harbaugh, weighed in on the controversy by tweeting that he would watch the movie with his team.
Michigan Football will watch "American Sniper"! Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American & if that offends anybody then so be it!
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) April 9, 2015
It was nice that the student newspaper was on the side of diversity of opinion for once. But the real catalyst in getting the administration to change its mind were the sentiments expressed by Harbaugh.
After the recent examples of college basketball coaches falling all over themselves to criticize and condemn the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it's refreshing to see a big-time college athletic coach stand up against the diversity nuts and come out for academic freedom.
And Harbaugh isn't some run of the mill coach. Even if he hadn't recently served as the San Francisco 49ers' head coach, the Michigan alum was hired this year to serve in one of the three most coveted jobs in college football. The University of Michigan is football crazy and Harbaugh's influence is greater than that of any academic and most administrators. If his intervention wasn't decisive, it certainly swayed the administration to change its mind and screen the film.
Harbaugh has had success wherever he's coached and he will no doubt return Michigan to its former glory. Let's hope he remains a strong voice for sports excellence and academic freedom.