This past weekend I watched a documentary called I Am Ali.
It was a close, in depth look at the life of Muhammad Ali, as told through his personal archive of audio journals and interviews with his inner circle of family and friends.
Many of you have heard of Muhammad Ali as the “The Greatest Boxer of All Time.”
While this is absolutely true (1 Olympic gold medal, 3x ‘Heavyweight’ champion), this man’s influence transcends boxing.
In my opinion, he is one of the greatest human beings alive and was definitely one of the most important in the 20th century.
Aside from being one of the greatest athletes of all time, he was a fierce advocate for civil rights and social justice.
One could even make the argument that he did more for racial justice than he ever did inside the ring.
At the age of 25, just 3 years after winning his first world ‘Heavyweight’ title against Sonny Liston, Ali refused conscription into the U.S. military, citing his religious and social beliefs, as well as his opposition to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.
In his words,
“My conscious won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father… Shoot them for what? …How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”
He was sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined 10,000 dollars, though he remained out on bail while he appealed the ruling.
Ali was also stripped of his title and banned from boxing for four years until the Supreme Court finally overturned his conviction in 1971.
He came back to win 2 more ‘Heavyweight’ titles, one versus Joe Frazier (The Thrilla In Manila) and the other against George Foreman (The Rumble In The Jungle).
He remains to this day the only 3x world ‘Heavyweight’ champion.
Ali transformed the role and image of the black athlete in America by his embrace of racial pride and his willingness to antagonize the white power structure of the time.
Could you imagine a Lebron James or Floyd Mayweather giving up 4 of their “prime” years for a cause bigger than themselves?
All that money?
All of those endorsements?
It’s sad to say, but I don’t.
Granted, we live in a completely different era, and the sixties were a revolutionary period for civil rights in our country; but I think our generation, as a whole, has become very complacent and apathetic to a lot of the issues we face as a people.
Most folks are just in it for themselves.
They will tweet about it, share a Facebook status, even dump a bucket of water on their heads, but if it comes down to actually making a sacrifice, it becomes “too difficult.”
Police Militarization and Brutality.
The Citizens United Ruling.
Genetically Modified Foods.
The “War” On Drugs.
Raising The Minimum Wage.
The Private Prison Industry.
The Obesity Epidemic.
Equal Pay For Women.
WHERE ARE THE VOICES?
I’m tired of hearing and reading about domestic violence, child abuse, and drug and alcohol misuse from our athletes.
I’m also tired of the lack of empathy and selflessness among society.
I challenge our athletes – and all of you reading this – to stand up for what is right and just.
Voice your opinion.
Stop worrying about “fitting in.”
BE PASSIONATE ABOUT THINGS!
Muhammad Ali was a polarizing and controversial figure – no doubt about it.
He was provocative and, at times, outlandish in his press conferences and interviews.
Say what you will about the man, but the one thing he was NOT was afraid.
He stood up for his beliefs and the rights of his fellow man, and he never feared the consequences.
I encourage you all to watch the documentary.
It’s truly an amazing and inspiring look inside the life of one of the most influential and important people of the last century.
Learn from him.
“You lose nothing when fighting for a cause. In my mind, the losers are those who don’t have a cause they care about.”
~Muhammad Ali, The Greatest