After Orthodox ‘Ninja Warrior’ cut from show, NBC releases unaired footage

Network didn’t broadcast Michael Neuman’s participation after he dropped out of competition because filming clashed with Shabbat

Michael Neuman, a Jewish competitor on “American Ninja Warrior,” whose participation in the show went unaired. (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Michael Neuman, a Jewish competitor on “American Ninja Warrior,” whose participation in the show went unaired. (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

JTA — When Michael Neuman found out his run on this season of the NBC obstacle course competition show “American Ninja Warrior” would not air, the competitor inside of him was crushed. Part of the filming schedule had conflicted with his Shabbat observance.

But Neuman was even more disappointed that he would not get to keep any footage from the show. Neuman, a 30-year-old psychotherapist from Miami Beach, had arranged to bring three young people from his Jewish Inspiration Foundation — which supports Jewish youth with physical challenges through sports — onto the show with him. Their parents were counting on keeping the footage of their family members on the obstacle course sidelines as a keepsake of a bright moment in their lives.

Now, just over two weeks after a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article about their story, the show has given Neuman and the families he brought on set a 47-second montage clip from Neuman’s time on the show. In an email reviewed by JTA, a producer alluded to the article and commended Neuman for his foundation’s work.

“I’m so appreciative to ‘American Ninja Warrior’ for releasing the clip to us,” Neuman told JTA. “I think it means a lot more than just a clip from the show. It means people care, and we are all in this together as humans.”

He added that having the video “means the world” to the families. “It’s so impactful and so inspiring that [the show] would do something so generous,” he said.

Here is the clip from “American Ninja Warrior”:

Neuman’s cohort of young adults was put up in a five-star hotel at Universal Studios, served kosher food, and participated in promotional filming for the show. When Neuman competed in the show’s obstacle course — a run that would initially earn him a spot in the semifinals — they cheered him on from the sidelines.

Neuman, an Orthodox Jew, ultimately forfeited his spot in the semifinals because filming for the episode fell on Shabbat. As a result, he was later cut entirely from the show, along with the footage of his fan section.

Leah Cohen, who traveled to Los Angeles with her son Ari, who has the rare chromosomal disorder mosaic trisomy 9, appealed to one of the show’s producers to share the footage with the foundation.

“I said, ‘Listen, you guys made a decision not to air [Michael]. I don’t know why you did that. But that’s your thing,’” Cohen recounted to JTA. “‘But at least share those pictures with us. I can’t fathom that that’s out there and one day when my son, God forbid, is not here, to know that those pictures and those videos are out there, and I won’t be able to have any comfort in looking at them and seeing them and being proud of them.’”

From left to right: Chaya Ruth Weberman, Eli Casper, Ari Cohen, Esther Schwab and Aydra Jones — members of the Jewish Inspiration Foundation on the set of “American Ninja Warrior.” (Courtesy of Leah Cohen via JTA)

Sam Bullard, a supervising producer for “American Ninja Warrior,” told JTA last month that Neuman was “cut for time” and that it’s “standard practice” to remove contestants in post-production. He said NBC would not release the footage.

Cohen said she was “shocked” to hear that NBC had changed its mind.

“What I saw brought me back to one of the happiest moments of my life,” she said about the video. “It’s showing the world that there are people who care about you and who are exhibiting kindness.”

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