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« African-American U.S. Senators | Main | Excerpt from "Stories about Black History: Vol. 2" »

An Opportunity to Stand

Muhammad Ali, January 17, 1942 - June 3, 2016.
Rest in Peace.

Muhammad Ali is remembered for his talent in the ring, but mostly for his stance outside of the world of sports.  In 1960 he won an Olympic gold medal.  
  • In 1964 he won his first heavy title, when he defeated Sonny Liston.  
  • He immediately announced his conversion to the Nation of Islam and later received the name, Muhammad Ali.  
  • He was stripped of his title a few years later and would come back to reclaim it in a fight against George Foreman, in October 1974 (in Kinshasa, Zaire).  
  • He successfully defended the title ten more times, before losing to Leon Spinks in 1978...seven months later, however, he regained the title from Spinks, becoming the first man in history to win the heavyweight title three times.  But, it is not simply for these things that he will be remembered.


Taking a Stand

On April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali went to the old Post Office building in Houston, TX for his required induction into the U. S. Army.  Ali had already expressed his opposition to the war in Vietnam and questioned why he should go and "kill his brother" in a foreign land, when no one in that country had ever called him "nigger" or sicced dogs on him--his rights were being violated right here in America.  He should stay in his country and fight the oppression he and his people were facing, rather than go to another country and kill people who had never offended him.
Ali stood in that building, along with eleven other men who were being inducted into the army.  When he was called into the room, an officer responsible for administering the oath called him forward to accept his induction.  He did not move.
Another officer then took him aside and explained the consequences for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army, after being drafted.
He, again, was given the chance to accept his induction and his name was called, but Muhammad Ali did not step forward and did not answer in the affirmative.
The next day he was stripped of his world boxing title.  He spent the next few years fighting this battle and ended up several hundred thousand dollars in debt.
He was sentenced to five years in prison, but was allowed to be out on bail while he appealed.  He was also fined $10,000, his passport was revoked and he was not allowed to box in the United States.  
During the time he was banned from boxing, he gave speeches and did whatever he could to help "make ends meet."
He, by no means, was a rich man while this was going on, yet he still continued to stand on his religious beliefs and never went back on his decision.  When asked why he didn't disavow the Muslim faith or Black Muslims in the United States (or his friendship with Malcolm X), he said (and I am paraphrasing), "Well I figured when I was finished boxing and white men had no more use for me, they would simply cast me away...and when black people remembered what kind of man I was and what I had done, they wouldn't accept me either.  

"I chose to stand on my beliefs."

I wonder if many of us today...athletes, politicians, and everyday people would be willing to stand up for what we believe in--even if it means giving up our conveniences and experiencing economic hardships?  
Copyright, Red and Black Ink, LLC, 2014.
Sources and for more reading:
The Guardian.  "From the archive, 29 April 1967: Muhammad Ali refuses to fight in Vietnam war Champion heavyweight boxer is stripped of world title after refusing US Army draft." http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2013/apr/29/muhammad-ali-refuses-to-fight-in-vietnam-war-1967
Accessed 4/2014.
BBC Home.  On This Day 1950 - 2005:  1968: Black athletes make silent protest
Accessed 4/2014.