Legendary boxer and activist Muhammad Ali died on Friday at the age of 74. His refusal to be drafted for the Vietnam War, stance on racial integration during the civil rights movement and conversion from Christianity to Islam caused Ali to not only be a powerful figure in the boxing arena, but also on the political stage.
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali
Activist Shaun King reflected on the ability of Ali to take a stand against the war that had “very little to do with him personally” and how he was able to send a powerful message about standing up for other’s people’s causes.
“There have been so many phenomenal boxers, it was really what [Ali] said and did outside of the ring that made him resonate so deeply,” King told Nomiki Konst Saturday.
After refusing to be drafted in 1967, Ali was immediately stripped of his boxing titles and was eventually convicted of draft evasion. His appeal of the verdict made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And in 1971, the justices unanimously reversed the lower court decision.
“[Ali] was considered a threat because he had influence and he wasn’t afraid to lose it all,” Donna Auston said to Dean Obeidallah Saturday. “Those things, the money, the boxing, obviously he was hurt by that and I know that couldn’t have been easy for his family, but he kind of refused to allow that to enslave him and to make him commit acts against his conscious in pursuit of wealth and fame.”
Perhaps there was no one more famous in the sports world than Ali. Tom Brokaw recalls the moment when Ali visited the NBC newsroom in Los Angeles—a place where every major star, including Frank Sinatra had visited.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, everybody left their desk. I mean he was the pied piper,” Brokaw told Andy Cohen Monday.
Randy Gordon, the former chairman of the New York State athletic commission, reiterated this point when he spoke with Joe Madison. “Ali said when you open your heart and you just love everybody that love comes back at you.”
“Muhammad Ali reminded us of who we could be, of what we could be, of what it meant to be bold in life–to wear your heart and your thoughts on your sleeve. And to leave it all in the ring, he really gave life his all,” said King.
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