CBS Airs Weird Puff Piece on Muslim High School Football Team

CBS's Jim Axelrod spotlighted a Michigan high school football team mostly made up of Muslim students on Friday's Early Show and trumpeted the "the strength of this diverse community." An array of student athletes and school officials from Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan fought against a phantom of "Islamophobia" that was only vaguely described.

In covering Fordson's custom of holding August practice from midnight to 4 am to be Ramadan-friendly, and despite playing video of students praying in Arabic while in their football uniforms, Axelrod didn't raise the usual ACLU-flagged church-state issues one might find a similar story on devout Christian students upsetting "diversity" in a school setting.

[Video clips from the segment available below the jump.]

 

Substitute anchor Jan Crawford previewed the correspondent's report, noting how "this is not your typical high school football team. Most of the player...are Muslims. And so, for the last month or so, they were fasting all day." Her co-anchor for the day, Jeff Glor, continued that this was "not very good timing when you're getting ready for a long season" and then gushed, "What this team chose to do is, really, pretty remarkable, and a lesson for everyone."

The CBS journalist first played a clip of the apparent footbal coach at Fordson giving his players a pep talk, and stated, "The game plan at Fordson High School is similar to countless other prep teams in the country." He followed this with the clip of the athletes praying the Islamic salah prayers in what appears to be a school classroom. Strangely, none of the school officials and students featured in his report were identified on screen, unlike most reports on The Early Show.

Axelrod then played sound bites from the coach, another school official, and two of the football players. All of them either gave testimonies about the supposed prejudice directed at them or reassurances about their American credentials:

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Our kids, who are 90%, 95% Muslim, Arab-American, are playing this all-American game. You have some people that just don't understand, and don't want to understand what Muslims are about and who they truly are.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 1: I think people are just ignorant, you know? I think people don't know what's going on, you know, they don't know how we are. They've never met us before, and they're making judgments before they even met us, I mean.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 2: We're all teenagers. We all have the same- we all like the same things. We have the same aspects in life.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 1: Whatever, you know, Arabs are called terrorists, and I still- you know how that feels.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: They happen to be Arab-American, they happen to be Muslim-American, but they're American high school kids, and these kids are playing football. And football, just like it is in Texas and Ohio- at Fordson, it's kind of a religion.

Later, the correspondent played another clip from the coach who explained the reason for their midnight football practices: "I know we tweaked it because of religious reasons, but, quite honestly, it was more for safety than it was for anything else."

Towards the end of the report, Axelrod again raised the specter of the supposed "Islamophobia" being directed at the school and their football team. He also made a point of including a video clip of the Fordson players standing on the sidelines as the National Anthem played before a game:

AXELROD: The midnight to 4 am schedule has demonstrated the strength of this diverse community, and proven to be stronger than any controversy challenging its practice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: People will send me e-mails, saying, what's going on in Dearborn? You're practicing sharia law, you're doing this. No, we're practicing constitutional law, thank you- we're doing. (laughs)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 4: We're following American laws, we're following board policy, state laws, and federal laws. And we're meeting the needs of our constituency. It's no different than the Christian faith wanting certain days off at schools because they're important to their holidays....

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: (clip of the Star Spangled Banner being played at football game) Ultimately, our youth are just like any other youth in the United States. You look at any town, any city in this country- Friday nights, what are they doing in the fall? They're going to play a football game, they're going to watch a football game. You're going to see the same thing in this community.

The story of the Fordson football team has been making the rounds in the mainstream media over the past month. The New York Times repeated the coach's safety issue line in an August 10 article by Jere Longman. NPR covered it on their "Tell Me More" program on August 18. ESPN even covered it over a year ago on August 16, 2010.

The full transcript of Jim Axelrod's report from Friday's Early Show:

JEFF GLOR: Labor Day weekend is the end of summer, and also, the beginning of football season, which we're very excited about. High school games kick off all over the country this weekend, including in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Muslim population in the U.S.

JAN CRAWFORD: Well, we found one team where faith, football and Friday night lights offer us all a lesson in diversity. For one high school team, faith and football found common ground.

National correspondent Jim Axelrod has that story.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: You have the chance to play football today. You fight until the end! You got that? (football players reply, "Let's go!") Let's go! (football players cheer and clap)

Screen Cap of Fordson High School Footbal Players Praying, Taken From 2 September 2011 Edition of CBS's Early Show | NewsBusters.orgAXELROD (voice-over): The game plan at Fordson High School is similar to countless other prep teams in the country. (clip of football players praying in Arabic) But it is also why this story is uniquely theirs to tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Our kids, who are 90%, 95% Muslim, Arab-American, are playing this all-American game. You have some people that just don't understand, and don't want to understand what Muslims are about and who they truly are.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 1: I think people are just ignorant, you know. I think people don't know what's going on, you know, they don't know how we are. They've never met us before, and they're making judgments before they even met us, I mean.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 2: We're all teenagers. We all have the same- we all like the same things. We have the same aspects in life.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 1: Whatever, you know, Arabs are called terrorists, and I still- you know how that feels.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: They happen to be Arab-American, they happen to be Muslim-American, but they're American high school kids, and these kids are playing football. And football, just like it is in Texas and Ohio- at Fordson, it's kind of a religion.

AXELROD: For generations, faith, family, and football have bonded the Arab-American community at Fordson. Football begins in August here, and in recent summers, so, too, the holy days of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset- no water, nor food, mixed with the intense exercise, created a challenge for those who practice both sport and faith with the same passion. The solution: the country's first overnight football practice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: I know we tweaked it because of religious reasons, but, quite honestly, it was more for safety than it was for anything else. Five-minute water break-

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 3: Our coach would reassure us, that we have to stay hydrated, and he would talk about things that happen in the nation, with kids passing out because of the heat.

AXELROD: Players and families not of Muslim faith never questioned the decision to practice all night.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 3: My coach just called my mom and talked to her, just asked her, could I practice at night, and she said that would be fine.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 4: Whatever is better for the team is what I wanted to do, so I agreed with it and went through with it.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 1: Even though those guys are not of the Muslim faith, you know, they're still our family. So, what we do, they're going to do. You know, they're going to breathe the same air we breathe. If we're going to practice at night, they practice at night with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Give our guy a chance to practice the ball-

AXELROD: The midnight to 4 am schedule has demonstrated the strength of this diverse community, and proven to be stronger than any controversy challenging its practice.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: People will send me e-mails, saying, what's going on in Dearborn? You're practicing sharia law, you're doing this. No, we're practicing constitutional law, thank you- we're doing. (laughs)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 4: We're following American laws, we're following board policy, state laws, and federal laws. And we're meeting the needs of our constituency. It's no different than the Christian faith wanting certain days off at schools because they're important to their holidays.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: If you're out there saying that Muslims in Dearborn are having Dearborn do things that are against America, there's just no evidence of it. In fact, the evidence is quite the contrary.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 5: We're not evil, you know? Anything that you see in the mainstream media, like in the Middle East that happens, it's nothing like that over here. We're just normal Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: (clip of the Star Spangled Banner being played at football game) Ultimately, our youth are just like any other youth in the United States. You look at any town, any city in this country- Friday nights, what are they doing in the fall? They're going to play a football game, they're going to watch a football game. You're going to see the same thing in this community.

AXELROD: Jim Axelrod, CBS News, Dearborn, Michigan.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center