Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Friday he would officially declare Feb. 2 “Chris Kyle Day” in the state, in honor of the late Navy Seal sharpshooter portrayed in the film “American Sniper.”
The movie, starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle who was killed by a disgruntled U.S. veteran on a Texas gun range in 2013, has been a box office hit as well as a flashpoint of debate between liberals and conservatives.
Abbott, a Republican, made the announcement during a speech at the Texans Veterans of Foreign Affairs Mid-Winter Convention in Austin, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“In honor of a Texas son, a Navy SEAL and an American hero – a man who defended his brothers and sisters in arms on and off the battlefield – I am declaring February 2nd Chris Kyle Day in Texas,” Abbott said during the speech, according to the statement.
The film has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture. It led a Reuters/IPSOS poll of roughly 2,400 Americans who were asked which film should win the top Oscar.
At the same time, critics have said the film glorifies war and sanitizes Kyle, who called Muslims “savages” in his memoir.
An Arab-American civil rights organization also asked director Clint Eastwood and actor Bradley Cooper to denounce hateful language directed at U.S. Arabs and Muslims after the release of the film.
“It is our opinion that you could play a significant role in assisting us in alleviating the danger we are facing,” said the letter penned by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
The ADC said it was working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and police to assess the threats.
Jack Horner, a spokesman for Warner Bros., the studio releasing the film, said in a statement that the company, a unit of Time Warner Co, “denounces any violent, anti-Muslim rhetoric, including that which has been attributed to viewers” of the film.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)