Jim Harbaugh Is Not A Food Critic

Submitted by Ace on August 30th, 2016 at 3:28 PM

[Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]

Jim Harbaugh is the first person to admit he's obsessed with football. Everything else is secondary. This is a man who traveled to Paris with his wife, went to a Mexican restaurant that appears to be decent but by no means world-renowned, and declared it the best restaurant while also boiling down his personality into a damn near perfect tweet.

Harbaugh is a blunt instrument. He doesn't get sick. He doesn't take holidays. He's a jackhammer. We know this.

Harbaugh also has strong ties to the military. One of his oldest, closest friends is retired Marine colonel Jim Minick, who now serves at Michigan's director of football operations. He has a well-documented history of bringing in military officers to speak to his teams. He stops by Omaha Beach while on vacation. He welcomes servicemen into his office and genuinely looks more excited to take a photo with them than vice versa.

Which brings us to yesterday. Harbaugh emerged from the fall camp submarine—his term; he's also referred to it as a "bunker"—to address the media for the first game-week press conference of the season. Harbaugh is well-known for his unpredictable, off-the-cuff answers in pressers (not to mention on Twitter). We have a "jim harbaugh says things he probably shouldn't" tag, and the proprietor of this site has described him as "being himself at maximum volume at all times" on multiple occasions.

The odds that Harbaugh had the time or inclination to seriously ponder Colin Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem before the press conference are exceedingly low. This is a football coach known for being way more football-obsessed than even the average football-obsessed football coach. He's briefly emerging from three weeks of fall camp and its four-hour practices and endless film study to talk about the Hawaii game. He's probably aware of the basic details of Kaepernick's protest, but that's not anywhere close to his primary focus. He's thinking about his team, preparing for Hawaii, and not letting on anything about the ongoing quarterback competition.


Fifteen minutes into a twenty-minute presser, Harbaugh is asked about Kaepernick. This is how our press conference correspondent, Adam Schnepp, transcribed the exchange:

As someone who knows Colin Kaepernick, what do you think about his stance to sit during the Anthem, and do you think it will cost him his job with the 49ers?

“I acknowledge his right to do that, but…I don’t respect the…the motivation or the…or the action.”

He pauses three times in that one sentence, which stands in stark contrast to the rest of the presser. The video shows a man who is searching for the right words and isn't quite sure he found them:

Harbaugh went off-the-cuff, which is his nature. He didn't choose his words carefully.

Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, has spent a great deal of time thinking about his motivation and his action. After the media picked up on his protest, he spent 18 minutes discussing in detail why he won't stand for the national anthem. Before that, he addressed the 49ers in a players-only meeting, one that teammates described as both "productive and informative." At least one player whose initial reaction mirrored Harbaugh's emerged from the meeting with a different mindset:

“To be honest with you, I took offense to it,” 49ers center Daniel Kilgore said upon learning Kaepernick opted not to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner out of protest for what he sees as injustice for minorities in the United States.

“But after Kap stating his case today, and seeing where he was coming from, I do stand with Kap when he says, ‘Enough is enough against crime and the violence, discrimination and racism.’

“I believe enough is enough. I can see where people would think it’s bad with the national anthem and the military. For me, I’m going to stand there every time. I’m going to think about and honor those who are fighting and those who have fought, my family members, my friends. If Kap decides not to, that’s his decision.”

While Kilgore may not be joining Kaepernick in protest, he acknowledges and understands the impetus behind it, and that is a critical distinction.

Harbaugh, unlike Kilgore, didn't talk to Kaepernick this week. My assumption, based on Harbaugh's reaction and that of many others, as well as his background, is that he viewed Kaepernick's protest as a disrespectful act to the military, to which the flag and the anthem are inextricably linked; just look at Michigan's upcoming military appreciation festivities for the UCF game, which will feature "two large American field flags [that] will be held by over 150 veterans and service members" during the anthem among several other military tributes. I doubt he'd considered Kaepernick's pointed views on police violence, not to mention his direct experience with it:

-Q: Have you ever been pulled over unjustly or had a bad experience in that regard?

-KAEPERNICK: Yes. Multiple times.

I mean, I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of a house in college and because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called and all of us had guns drawn on us. I mean, came in the house without knocking, guns drawn, on one of my teammates and roommates.

So I have experienced this. People close to me have experienced this. This isn’t something that’s a one-off case here, a one-off case there.

When Harbaugh initially said he didn't respect Kaepernick's "motivation," he unwittingly invalidated the very real issues that Kaepernick is addressing with his act of protest. It was one of the worst possible word choices.  Immediately after the press conference ended, he corrected that error:

If Harbaugh had said that initially, he wouldn't be in the midst of a media firestorm, or at least not one that's nearly this heated. While he still takes exception to Kaepernick's action, that's a position that doesn't invalidate years, decades, centuries of America's history, as well as the present state of relations between police and minorities in many parts of this country.

You may still disagree with Harbaugh. Kaepernick's protest is nonviolent, even nonintrusive—he sat for the anthem in the first preseason game, too, and nobody noticed—and when the media picked up on it, it sparked a nation-wide conversation that's led to some remarkable revelations. I majored in history; without Kaepernick's protest, I wouldn't be aware of the third verse of the Star Spangled Banner. That appears to be the case with one of Harbaugh's star players, Jourdan Lewis, as well. If the goal of protest—a deeply American act dating back to the very genesis of this country—is to raise awareness of issues and drive change, Kaepernick hit the mark; again, look at the reaction from his teammates after the players-only meeting.

You may still disagree with Kaepernick, too. The national anthem and the flag are symbols that, for many of us, stand for freedom, equality, and the sacrifices so many have made to uphold those values. Kaepernick's freedom of expression extends to his critics, and they have a valid point, too: many, many people have died fighting for the country and values that flag symbolizes, and Kaepernick's actions can be interpreted as disrespect of that country and those values in that context. I can't know for sure, but it's quite possible Harbaugh feels that way.

This is all well and good as long as there's an acknowledgment that this discussion has valid opinions on both sides. Harbaugh's initial statement didn't leave room for that. His clarification did.

In an ideal world, Harbaugh would've been prepared to address the issue—the question wasn't hard to see coming—and better express his true feelings on the matter, or acknowledge that he wasn't ready to address it and put forth a no comment. His brother, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, had thought through his answer enough to quote Voltaire when asked about Kaepernick:

"Voltaire so eloquently stated, 'I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend it until death your right to say it,'" John Harbaugh said. "That's a principle that our country is founded on. I don't think you cannot deny someone the right to speak out or mock or make fun or belittle anybody else's opinion."

Jim Harbaugh, however, is a blunt instrument. He answered the question. By his own admission, he missed the mark.

I hate when people tell sports figures to stick to sports. These are people with experiences and opinions that are often quite valuable, and they have a larger platform than most. Context matters, though. Jim Harbaugh is not a food critic. He is not a politician. He is not a social commentator. He is a football coach. We shouldn't be surprised that he sounded like one when asked to address a complicated, nuanced, and controversial social issue in between questions about the depth chart and this season's schedule.



August 30th, 2016 at 2:58 PM ^

We're leaving the comments on this topic open for the moment, in the hopes that any discussion will be civil.

Incivility will result in a paddling, and/or comments being deleted liberally or the comments section being locked altogether


August 30th, 2016 at 11:01 PM ^

"Harbaugh also has strong ties to the military." Because of his best friend? Or is it because he likes Chuck Norris films? I've spent most of the last 30 years serving the military in one capciaty or another. I call bullshit on the notion that having a best friend in uniform counts as a close ties to the military. But please don't take that as a criticism of coach Harbaugh - that's aimed squarely at Op for making such a fatuous point.

Just what the fuck does the military have to do with this discussion anyhow? Does my service make me a super patriot? Does my sacrafice elevate me to some position where I can pass judgement on others? C'mon man.



August 31st, 2016 at 2:20 AM ^

In some cases.  I have never served in the military, but I do believe decisions and opinions about when to go to war should be made by those who have served and/or send their children off to fight, instead of of career politicians.

Chicken-Hawks are always the first to beat the war drum because they have the least to lose.


August 31st, 2016 at 3:05 AM ^

The flag belongs to anyone who associates themself with the united states. It does not belong to the military. It does not belong to the nfl who uses it as a propaganda piece.
It belongs to everyone.
Ace, i commend you for walking a fine political line. If the mgoblog staff wanted to no comment, they should have posted the video with no comment and locked the comments. But that was not the case.
in this case, harbaugh was just wrong. And it is nowhere near treason to say so. He could have easily said " i havent spoken to colin, so im not ready to comment at this time" and there would be no further questions. Kaepernick is a man who has been here for 2 qb camps, so id assume that harbaugh has his number to discuss this at any time.
If this blog is here to be a harbaugh slappy, then just say so and we can all go on our merry way.
If this was brandon, hoke or rodriguez, theyd be put against the wall for this.
Cmon. If we want this to be harbaughslappy.com, then lets retitle.
Until then, this is a um blog thats pretty heavy on football. And the mgoblog staff has never been shy calling it as they see it when um employees make a mistake.
Id prefer we keep up that tradition. Not become an harbaugh apologist society.
Edit: i do not mean this as a personal attack on ace. His name was on the article and i do not know if this piece is the thoughts of ace alone or the mgoblog staff as a whole.


August 30th, 2016 at 3:44 PM ^

It's a multi-day story once people like Kaepernick and Harbaugh get involved thanks to the importance we place on sports in our society, which was clearly Colin's intention.

The issues he's concerned about have lingered for years/decades/centuries. It's not the end of the world if we talk about them for more than one "news cycle" (I'm in media/marketing, hate that term) here and there.

panthera leo fututio

August 30th, 2016 at 3:47 PM ^

From my own perspective as fan, I'm less concerned about the extent of some minor (if predictably hyperventilating) media reaction than I am about getting a better feel for the character of people that I root for. As such, I appreciate this thoughtful assessment of where the relevant parties are coming from. And if this piece means that the story stays in some fraction of the public's eye for marginally longer, I guess it's a price that I don't really care about.


August 30th, 2016 at 3:59 PM ^

Seriously.  While this is an important topic to discuss, I was pleased that Harbaugh quickly put that fire out and no one is talking about it today at this point.  Now we're talking about it again...Honestly, I just don't want the head coach to be awash in this for purely selfish reasons in that I want the UM head coach to never be a point of real controversy (not stupid satilitte camp stuff, that doesn't count), even though I know he is human and lives in front of a camera.


August 30th, 2016 at 4:39 PM ^

Agree, and the thing I'm not sure the people behind this blog fully get - or maybe do get and think this piece was just important anyway - is that on this blog we support Coach, we knew right away the reason he misspoke, that the clarification would come, that his singular focus on the task at hand is the thing that make JH JH.

And to the rest of the world of college football, they don't care how nice Ace's sentiments are at all, they relish any opportunity to stop the hype train that is Jim Harbaugh (watch Paul Finebaum at all? Grinning like the cat/canary anytime something comes up that gives a chance to dis JH).

So I tend to agree with the sentiment that anything more that gets said by people associated with the University of Michigan, its attendant media and its fanbase is just providing oxygen to the story (Jim Harbaugh's tangential relationship to the story at any rate), which would die of natural causes otherwise. 

The FannMan

August 30th, 2016 at 4:10 PM ^

That was my first thought, too.  However, it is not the MGoBlog staff's job to handle media relations for Michigan.  Whoever has that job didn't do it when she or he let Harbaugh speak on the topic without thinking about it.  This is clearly a Michigan story and this blog could hardly have ignored it.  I appreciate that they took their time to write it well, and resisted the temptation of firing something off last night. As we have all learned, this is an issue that requires thought and care.  

The FannMan

August 30th, 2016 at 5:29 PM ^

I am suggesting that someone from the Sports Information crew at Michigan should have spoken to Harbaugh about how to address this issue before a press conference took place. Kaepernick is a former Harbaugh QB who is the center of a major news story.  It was obvious that someone was going to ask Harbaugh the question.  He should have been prepared. Michigan has media types whose job it is to prepare him for the media and it appears that they failed to do so.

[Edit: MDog, there is a difference between someone from the AD's PR staff asking Jim to think about the issue and helping him to articulate his feelings corretly, and the stuff that Brandon's crew would come-up with.  The former is helping a coach not put his foot in his mouth on an important and sensative issue.  The later is the AD lying about why you got free tickets with a purchase of two Cokes.]


August 30th, 2016 at 6:05 PM ^

This is a bit of a snarky remark, but I tend to agree. I saw things flare up immediately after his statement, and immediately die down after he clarified. Ace isn't wrong about anything he says, I just worry about exactly this. The media doesn't hesitate to move in like a pack of wolves, I don't think we need to remind them.

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August 31st, 2016 at 10:28 AM ^

Beyond Ace's post here and on twitter what firestorm are we talking about? Is this a thing in A2?

Not seeing it in Detnews or MLive, or anything national other than ESPN flatly including original quote and Twitter clarification together as one of a stream of many opinions in the overall how do you feel about what Kap did story.

I don't see this as a big deal at all. Harbaugh sees Kap has the right to sit, but doesn't support it. Exactly the same stance as many - especially those who have served mind you.

Another example of PC police run overblowing nothing.

Rufus X

August 30th, 2016 at 3:38 PM ^

Kaepernick is outraged at racsim. People are outraged that Kaepernick sat down during the national anthem. Other people are outraged at the people who are outraged at Kaepernick.  Everyone has a right to be outraged. 

I just wish I didn't have to listen to it, because at the heart of it I don't care to what degree Kaerpernick is patriotic. Seriously who cares? This is America - dude can do what he wants.  And people can love him or hate him for it.  Can we please drop this topic altogether?

Blue Sharpie

August 30th, 2016 at 4:24 PM ^

In 1940, the Supreme Court, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, (pledge of allegiance in school)
Jackson, writing for the 6 to 3 majority, went beyond ruling that public school students are not required to say the Pledge on narrow grounds, but asserted that such ideological dogma is antithetical to the principles of the country, concluding with:

"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us."[31]

In a later case, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that students are also not required to stand for the Pledge.[32]


August 30th, 2016 at 3:40 PM ^

I agree with Kaeperneck's motivation 100%. And I have no problem with his choice of action. I shake my head at the irony of the "America, Love be it or leave it" crowd, who also seem to the most often in an uproar about perceived assaults on the Constitution, going ape over a guy simply expressing himself in a way that doesn't do any harm to anyone. Plus, I don't think I want to be on the same side of any argument with Alex Boone.

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August 30th, 2016 at 4:33 PM ^

I don't know, does doing stuff like that really get anyone anywhere? Or does it just get everyone even more pissed off at each other? I have literally seen multiple friendships end on Facebook over this in the last few days. I think if Kaepernick had donated most of his money to charity to support the families of innocent people killed by cops and made a public spectacle of it that would have made a much louder statement.


August 30th, 2016 at 5:07 PM ^

All it's doing is dividing us and making us yell at each other from our echo chambers. What cause is that helping? And what awareness was needed? What he sat for was already widely-known as an issue in our country. I'd rather see him actually DO something in the community. Organize a get-together with police and the community. Donate money, like you said. SOMETHING. Sitting on your butt isn't going to do much more than posting a profile picture on facebook in suppoort of a cause would. The only thing I see is everyone is talking about Colin Kaepernick now...how very self-serving.

And I hope people don't misunderstand me...I VERY MUCH AGREE with his motivations. There is a serious problem with police in the country right now, and it disproportionately affects black Americans. It saddens me that some people won't even recognize it as an issue...but I somehow doubt him sitting down is going to get those people to change their minds.