Muhammud Ali, perhaps the greatest boxer of modern times, died Friday. He was 74.
Before we get to our quote, an image from Mike Luckovich, editorial cartoonist of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, incorporating part of another faous ALi quotation:
In March 1967, Muhammud Ali refused induction into the Army on the grounds that he was a Muslim mininister and thereby legally exempt. He was stripped of his title as World Heavyweight Champion and barred from boxing, then sentenced to five years in prison. And though allowed to remain free while his sentence was appealed, he couldn’t box until the Supreme Court overturned his conviction four years later.
Though he was able to return to the sport and win yet more titles, given that he was banned form boxing between the ages of 25 and shortly before his 29th birthday, he was lost to the sport during the peak of athletic prowess.
Our quote of the day comes from a press conference Ali gave in Houston before his scheduled induction. Asked why he was refusing and willing to risk imprisonment, Ali gave this answer:
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand 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 am not going ten thousand 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 put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…
If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”