First: Rest in peace to the The People’s Champion, Muhammad Ali. Ali was the first boxer to win the world heavyweight boxing title 3 separate times while capturing the attention of millions through his unprecedented bravado and engaging personality. Appropriately nicknamed The Greatest, Ali came away victorious in some of the “greatest” pro sporting events ever (Thrilla In Manila, The Rumble In The Jungle).
Second: Ali should be remembered not only for his athletic excellence, but also his unrelenting passion and vindication outside of the boxing ring. One of Ali’s many nicknames was The Louisville Lip, as no one in the history of modern American sports provided a soundbite and spoke with a combination of speed, wit, and braggadocio that Ali did.
Third: Ali said what he meant and meant what he said. Ali said what he did and did what he said. Whether you agree or not with some of his political or religious views, it’s nearly impossible not to respect Ali’s willingness to “stick to his guns” when faced with even the gravest of adversity. For instance, after publicly pledging to never enroll if drafted by the US Military during the Vietnam War, Ali kept to his word and refused to be enlisted. Rather than try to “draft dodge” like many of our current political leaders by utilizing loop-holes or personal connections, Ali was willing to go to jail for his beliefs. Ali was willing to lose all of his earning potential in order to not betray his values. That, no matter how biased, racist, or blind you might be, is undeniably respectable.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars” – via Fusion.
Ali’s refusal to be drafted by the US Military brings us back to the title of this little hot-take and the idea of “fighting the power”. Speaking of which…
Muhammad Ali was ultimately proven correct in questioning the true objectives and motives of the people above him (the government, in this instance). In 1966, it was revealed that some working body within the US Military upgraded Ali’s candidacy as a draft nominee from to a 1A in order to undermine Ali’s anti-establishment sentiment and refusal to abide by the status quo. As the NYT tells it (read the entire obit, by the way):
“On Feb. 17, 1966, a day already roiled by the Senate’s televised hearings on the war in Vietnam, Ali learned that he had been reclassified 1A by his Louisville selective service board. He had originally been disqualified by a substandard score on a mental aptitude test. But a subsequent lowering of criteria made him eligible to go to war. The timing, however, was suspicious to some; the contract with the Louisville millionaires had run out, and Nation members were taking over as Ali’s managers and promoters.”
In this instance, officials entrusted by the public wielded their power to inflict harm and punishment on an individual that they felt undermined their own power. People in positions of power sought to silence Ali and fall back in line. This type of incident happens to people and groups throughout the center of US politics and economics everyday. 50 years later, much of the political manipulation and power of the wealthy that was faced with exists today. It’s important to remember this. It takes vigilant, and more importantly courageous, people to stand up to the powers that be.
As for now….
WE OUT HERE.