Union organizers twist Nick Saban's words for TV ad, and it stinks | Goodbread

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I wasn't going to get in the middle of this flap between retired Alabama football coach Nick Saban and More Perfect Union Solidarity, which has created pro-labor television ads supporting the unionization of Tuscaloosa County's Mercedes-Benz factory employees with United Auto Workers in a vote this week.

I really wasn't.

Then I decided to engage in a quick fact-check, and well, here we are.

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Saban has asked that advertisements depicting him in support of the union push be pulled, alleging that the ads took comments he made out of context and were used without his knowledge. He also asserted that he does not endorse the UAW or its campaign. A key disclosure: he owns seven Mercedes-Benz dealerships in five states.

Shortly after Saban distanced himself from the union movement, the president of More Perfect Union Solidarity, Faiz Shakir, responded, telling al.com in part: "I understand that, in the closing moments of a union drive at the Vance plant, he’s probably getting pressure from the Mercedes leadership to speak out, so he felt he needed to say something. We didn’t take anything Coach said out of context; we presented his public statements exactly as he made them; and we’d ask people to watch the ad and judge for themselves."

Of course Shakir wants people to judge from the ad. But I judged from the raw video from which the ad was taken. And low and behold, Saban's comments were edited after all. The difference is slight, but it's noteworthy, and surely not accidental.

Here's what Saban told Fox Sports' Joel Klatt last year: "It never scares me that people are organized. I think there's some good in that. I think General Motors and the automotive industry's had unions for a long time, and they survived fairly well I think."

The ad cuts out the sentence "I think there's some good in that."

Saying there is "some good" in anything isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. There's "some good" in a bacon double cheeseburger, but the good is only in the taste, and there's plenty of bad in the cholesterol. By saying there was "some good" in labor organization, Saban was recognizing that all unions are not the same. Some are big, some small. Some lift up the working class, others get corrupted and lose sight of that mission. And that Saban caveat, it would seem, wasn't good enough for More Perfect Union Solidarity. It insisted on depicting Saban with a full-throated endorsement, so it cut that sentence out of the ad.

If the best defense for that choice is to claim that the exclusion was minor and didn't impact Saban's meaning, then why cut it out at all? If the edit was no big deal, then why was that sentence a big enough deal to remove?

Which brings us to Saban's contention that his remarks were taken out of context. They absolutely were. His comments were snipped from three previous interviews — one with Klatt, one with Fox News, and another from a press conference at SEC Meetings in Destin — none of which had anything to do with Mercedes-Benz unionization in Tuscaloosa. The context of all three interviews related to the potential unionization of college athletes. The notion that Saban's opinion on a players union in college sports translates to support of a very different union push at Mercedes-Benz is disingenuous at best.

If it wasn't, he wouldn't be complaining.

If it wasn't, he surely would've been told about the use of his remarks in advance.

Even Saban's comments about a potential players union in college sports have been measured. He's never suggested it's a great idea, only that it's not as bad an idea as the hopelessly broken NCAA system that currently exists.

Bottom line, the ad's clear message that Saban wants to see Tuscaloosa County's Mercedes-Benz factory workers unionize is one hell of a stretch. Both a stretch of his position, and a stretch of the ad's integrity. It wouldn't be quite so bad had Saban's tepid sentence about unions in general not been edited out of the ad, only for a pro-union spokesperson to say otherwise. Shakir asserted that the ad presented Saban's public statements "exactly as he made them."

No, sir, it didn't.

I don't pretend to know the working conditions at the two Mercedes-Benz plants in the area, nor do I care whether the union is formed. But I don't need to understand that fight to know ambush editing when I see it.  At the end of the week, votes on the local Mercedes-Benz unionization will be in.

But the vote on the level of honesty in the pro-union TV ad campaign is in already.

And it's a thumbs down.

Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.
Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.

Tuscaloosa News columnist Chase Goodbread is also the weekly co-host of Crimson Cover TV on WVUA-23. Reach him at cgoodbread@gannett.com. Follow on X.com @chasegoodbread.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Nick Saban's words twisted for TV ad by Mercedes-Benz union organizers