Of course - why was he stripped? Because of his stance on Vietnam - and in this way he joined Martin Luther King in taking a controversial anti-war stance, and becoming an even more polarizing figure despite it. (One of my favorite videos of Martin Luther King for instance is his appearance on the Mike Douglas Show around that time, which could have taken place right this second if an antiwar activist appeared on just about any hour of bilge on any major cable show that doesn't involve Rachel Maddow, Dylan Ratigan or Chris Hayes.) It is amazing to think in 2012 that any athlete of his stature - or any celebrity - was willing to give up so much. Yes, some sources (which I cannot remember, couple of books) express alternatives to his convictions - for instance that he was just afraid of the notion of going to war. However, anyone who saw Forrest Gump would have to think that there was no way that the United States military would have ever let the world's most famous athlete get anywhere near combat. Almost certainly Ali would have been boxing at USO shows and been some sort of celebrity spokesmodel for America - yet despite this, Ali did it anyway. And so went the peak of his career with it. While Ali was imperfect in a lot of ways (his marriages, his treatment of Joe Frazier) - you can't take the courage of his stance away from him.
In our 2012 society, there is a lot to have dissatisfaction, and a lot of fights for justice that need fighting. However, for many reasons, it feels like people feel like they have more to lose than ever. There is much to speak out against, but so few who feel they can. And those who CAN, especially in a venue like sports, seem too happy to placate sponsors and their marketability to ever lay anything real on the line - for instance why did a locked out NBAPA not ally itself with the causes in Wisconsin and Ohio, when their own labor struggle (scope of wealth aside) had remarkably similar parallels? We need Alis now more than ever - happy birthday champ.
Comments are closed on this story.