University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh essentially forced the school’s hand Wednesday evening regarding a situation surrounding the campus’ showing of American Sniper by declaring his love for Chris Kyle and America in a tweet and telling Michigan that the football team would be watching the film. On Tuesday, the school announced that it was pulling the previously-scheduled showing of the film from its Friday schedule of events due to a student drive objecting to the film’s content. This led to students and faculty criticizing the decision, eventually leading to Harbaugh’s tweet and the school reversing course late Wednesday evening.
Lamees Mekkaoui, a student of Middle Eastern descent at Michigan, led the drive to get the controversial movie removed from the schedule. Per the Detroit Free-Press, she had already seen the movie and stated it made her feel uncomfortable due to its depiction of the Iraq War.
“I felt uncomfortable during it,” she told the Free Press. “As a student who identifies as an Arab and Middle Eastern student, I feel that ‘American Sniper’ condones a lot of anti-Middle Eastern and North African propaganda,”
She wrote one letter to the university’s Center for Campus Involvement, asking for it to be pulled from the schedule of Friday’s UMix event.
“I like those events,” Mekkaoui said. “I don’t think this film fits that event, which is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. I think it should be played, but not at this event.”
She sent a second letter signed by a couple of hundred students, including some from the Muslim Student Association. Mekkaoui is a member of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality and the Middle Eastern and Arab Network at U-M.
The decision by the school to pull the film led to controversy on the campus and beyond, with many conservative media figures jumping into the fray to criticize the school for kowtowing to political correctness. A petition made the rounds on campus stating that the movie is not about a “racist mass murder” but about troops in war, like Saving Private Ryan. The school tried to compromise Wednesday afternoon by announcing a new location and time for the film’s showing. However, it appears that the following tweet from Harbaugh was the tipping point for Michigan.
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
By late Thursday morning, it had been retweeted more than 22,000 times and had thousands of replies, many of them supportive. A short time after Harbaugh’s tweet was sent, the school reversed course and stated that the movie would be shown as originally scheduled. E. Royster Harper, the vice president of student life at Michigan, sent out the notification just before 11 PM ET.
“It was a mistake to cancel the showing of the movie ‘American Sniper’ on campus as part of a social event for students. The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters.
The movie will be shown at the originally scheduled time and location. We recognize, however, that some students are uncomfortable with the content of the movie, and appreciate that concern.
Therefore, the university also will show an alternative movie, “Paddington,” in another location on campus at that same time and date to provide our students with additional options that evening.”
We here at Politicus Sports were able to get a hold of video of Harbaugh as he sent the tweet Wednesday night.
Image via SBNation