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Thread: Your Political Thoughts on Muhammmad Ali?

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    Your Political Thoughts on Muhammmad Ali?

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/04/us/ken...html?hpt=hp_t3

    Ali is appearing very, very frail. It is probably only a matter of time for him.

    What are your thoughts on the champ?

    Some call him a draft dodger while others call him a hero. I think it's a worthy debate and I can see both sides of that issue. The work he did in this country for racial equality and then the international humanitarian work I think makes up for the draft dodging he may have done in the 1960's.

    I guess I more mad that he stole my dad's bicycle when they were kids (they grew up in the same area of downtown Louisville, to his best recollection my dad believes it was a young Cassius Clay that stole his bike) than I am about any draft dodging he may have done.

    When the final bell rings for him, how should Ali be remembered in a political sense?
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    To be frank, I couldn't care less about his politics. The champ was one helluva boxer!
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    Ali is a fascinating person to study, and I've read a lot about him. The thing to realize about him is that he was/is very intelligent, but poorly educated (thanks in part to crippling dyslexia). As a result when he went out into the world as a young boxer he knew virtually nothing about, well... anything, and his naivete made him very vulnerable to suggestion. The legendary sportswriter Dick Schapp liked to say that if he had tried really hard, he thinks he could have converted Ali to Judaism.

    Instead what Ali found was the Nation of Islam, an extreme political/religious organization comparable to a mirror image of the KKK in philosophy but not action (the two organizations actually partnered together at times). Their leader, Elijah Muhammad, put out his sermons/speeches on LPs which Ali could listen to (rather than read). Likewise he went and saw Malcolm X speak, who was a scintillating public speaker. They captured Ali despite the fact that his really hadn't faced that much discrimination in his life. His father was a house painter and he grew up a middle class kid in Louisville, which was hardly the most racist city in America at the time. His mother was half white, I believe. It's not like he was brutalized or even really picked on that much. From the time he was very young he could whoop just about anybody he met, and he didn't grow up angry, the way George Foreman and Joe Frazier did. Ali was a goof. For him boxing was athletics, not "fighting".

    Nevertheless the Nation knew what they had in Ali and immediately put him front and center. That he survived in front of the cameras despite being newly indoctrinated is a testament to the man's intelligence and talent for improvisation. But he was hardly the thinker Malcolm X was, and as Malcolm started to temper his more extreme views (helped by a trip to Israel) and speak out counter to the Nation he was quickly shunned and -- according to the best evidence we have -- killed at the order of Louis Farrakhan. With Malcolm gone Elijah Muhammad's rule of the Nation was secure and they could use Ali as their chief spokesman and not be worried about him challenging Elijah Muhammad and/or wandering off the reservation. After all, everything Ali knew -- all of his sophisticated points of view and knowledge of the world -- had come from the Nation. From where would he draw dissent?

    Ali is remembered now for his principled stand against Vietnam but it's important to remember that he was at least mildly full of ****. He wasn't going to have to go over there and kill anybody. The Army offered him the same deal they had offered Joe Louis 25 years before. He'd go over there, entertain the troops with exhibitions, be a symbol, and go home. The way he articulated his stand -- his reasons -- was political theater, designed at least in part by the Nation to persuade young black men who had been drafted and were actually going to have to go out there and kill other "brown" people to join their cause.

    What Ali and the other members of the Nation who formed his "team" (Ali was the first champion not run by the mob. The Nation had enough muscle to prevent that) didn't count on is how aggressively the government would fight back in stripping him of his passport and his license to fight anywhere in the US in an effort to bankrupt him (which they did). The Nation's lawyers spent years working it out, first trying to classify Ali as a preacher or some such, which didn't work. In the meantime Ali went around to colleges on a speaking tour doing the company line about white people being blue eyed devils and extolling the virtues of segregation.

    People have chosen to sort of sweep this rhetoric under the rug as the years have gone by and remember Ali as a principled revolutionary. That's fine. We all need heroes. But it's significant to me that Ali eventually left the Nation of Islam to become a Sunni and embraced a more multi-ethnic tolerance and acceptance the way Malcolm X had done years before.

    Reading about Ali as a public figure and person is endlessly fascinating. He was/is truly a unique human being, and a singular sports figure. Imagine blending together the personality and aura of Tim Tebow and the physical talent of, I dunno, Cam Newton. Certainly football hasn't seen anyone like him. The stories about people interacting with him are always hilarious. Deadspin republished a famous article about Ali called "My Dinner with Ali" which I think I posted a link to a few months back. It's about a guy basically showing up at Ali's mother's house in Louisville while Ali was there, meeting the champ, getting to spend the whole day with him, and becoming sort of a lifelong friend/acquaintance of the man.

    After Deadspin posted it stories poured in about other people's encounters with Ali, showing the man's basic humanity, sense of play and openness that made it basically inevitable that he would eventually leave his political viewpoints from the Nation behind. A collection of those stories (as well as a link to "My Dinner with Ali") can be found at the link:

    http://deadspin.com/a-collection-of-...ium=socialflow



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    My mom was an elmentary school teacher's aid in the county just east of Jefferson County (Louisville). One day in the early 1990s Ali came out to do an assembly at her school for some reason (don't remember why now) and some precocious older kid, maybe 9 or 10 years old, came up to Ali and put up his dukes like he was going to fight Ali. Ali broke down into his legendary boxing stance, starting dancing (as best he could with his health at the time) and throwing a few jabs at the air around the kid. The kid's eyes got as big as golf balls, he turned around and ran away from Ali. Ali and everyone else laughed. The local news got it on tape. Pretty funny stuff.
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    Dont really know much about him. Cant judge him positively or negatively, without walking his path or atleast close to his path. Dont agree about calling him draft dodger. He never asked to go to war with NV, so i have no issue with his refusal to go.
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    I rooted for and admired Ali's boxing skill during the 70's as a teenager. Watching Ali in matches against Frazier and Foreman were epic events that I shared with my father and brothers.
    At the time I really never cared about what he was about or what he might have stood for. I just enjoyed the sport of heavyweight boxing in it's hey day.
    Looking back, apparently he was a pawn of his handlers.
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