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Whitlock: Jim Harbaugh’s pro-life message sounds like a recruiting speech and business as usual

Op-ed
Kevin Winter / Staff, Michael Reaves / Stringer | Getty Images

I’ve been reluctant to give Jim Harbaugh credit for his public pro-life stance. Last week, the Michigan football coach spoke at a Right to Life event in Plymouth, Michigan.

Given the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, it was surprising to learn that a high-profile coach would take a position that opposed the leftist establishment. Harbaugh has previously been in lockstep with the left.

“I believe in having the courage to let the unborn be born. I love life,” Harbaugh said, according to the news service for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit. “I believe in having a loving care and respect for life and death. My faith and my science are what drive these beliefs in me.”

Over the weekend, Harbaugh doubled down, granting ESPN reporter Gene Wojciechowski an interview and elaborating on his pro-life stance.

“I’ve told (them) the same thing I tell my kids, boys, the girls, same thing our players, our staff members. I encourage them if they have a pregnancy that wasn’t planned, to go through with it, go through with it. Let that unborn child be born, and if at that time, you don’t feel like you can care for it, you don’t have the means or the wherewithal, then Sarah and I will take that baby.”

Why am I bothered by Harbaugh’s stance? Why am I reluctant to give it a full-throated endorsement?

Harbaugh is a practicing Catholic. So are Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. Biden and Pelosi are pro-abortion. So what’s the difference in how Catholicism informs Harbaugh’s view on abortion, as opposed to the president and the speaker of the House?

The difference can be explained by occupation. As Democrats, Biden and Pelosi would pay a steep price for adhering to the position of the Catholic Church. As a football coach, there’s no down side to Harbaugh being pro-life. He can sell his pro-life message in every living room across America.

In general, white football parents are not leftists. They’re political conservatives and tend to be religious. Black football recruits tend to live in single-parent homes headed by single mothers who eschewed the option of aborting their children.

On the recruiting trail, the message that “all lives matter” works quite well. Harbaugh can look black mothers in the face and tell them he’s pro-life because he’s played with and coached hundreds of black boys and men who some people thought should be aborted.

This sounds like I’m being hypercritical of Jim Harbaugh, who is taking a stance I believe in. I’m glad he took the stance. I just don’t think he demonstrated any real courage in taking it.

What’s the down side? ESPN anchor Elle Duncan disagrees with him? Michigan’s school president, Mary Sue Coleman, disagrees with him? What is she going to do, fire Harbaugh? He won 12 games and the Big Ten title last year. He beat Ohio State. On the abortion issue, Harbaugh is bulletproof.

Harbaugh has threaded the Black Lives Matter needle. He named Colin Kaepernick an honorary team captain for the spring game. Harbaugh championed George Floyd and attended anti-police protests.

Every position Harbaugh takes is filtered through the lens of football, not Catholicism. He’s pro-Kaepernick because that’s a message that works with recruits. He’s pro-George Floyd because that’s a message that works with recruits. He’s pro-life because that’s a message that works with the mothers of recruits.

His way of being pro-life also comforts potential recruits. He’s telling his players that if they knock up a coed, Harbaugh and his wife will raise the baby. He’s not telling his players to avoid irresponsible sex, to find a woman worthy of marriage and procreate with her. He’s providing his players a safety net for irresponsible behavior.

Harbaugh is recruiting.

This is the problem with secular culture. Everyone is a slave to their careers. We toss aside our religious beliefs, values, and convictions to serve the best interests of our professions.

We have no higher calling than our career and salary. Royce White, a regular contributor on my show "Fearless," says we have “no sacred honor.” We’ll do anything for money. We joke about it.

I’m a huge fan of Charles Barkley. I like and respect Charles. I think he’s a force for good. However, last week, when talking about the possibility of taking a job with the Saudi-backed LIV golf league as a broadcaster, Charles joked that he would kill a close relative for the right amount of money.

The joke was funny because it’s laced with kernels of truth. We don’t care where the money comes from or what stipulations are attached to the money. We just want the money.

“I told (Greg Norman), ‘Listen, they are making up words, like blood money and sports-washing.’ I said, ‘We have all taken blood money and we all have sports-washed something, so I don’t like those words, to be honest with you.’ If you are in pro sports, you are taking some type of money from a not-great cause.”

American culture is in decline because of the financial influence of foreign countries. China tells Hollywood what movies to make and what message is allowed in those movies. The NBA and its players promote anti-American sentiment because China encourages it. Now Saudi Arabia is buying up American golfers and broadcasters to compete against the PGA Tour.

That’s my long-winded explanation why I’m not overly thrilled with Jim Harbaugh’s pro-life stance. If being pro-life would jeopardize a five-star recruit for Michigan, I suspect Harbaugh would convert his locker room into a Planned Parenthood facility.

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