By Thomas Hester II (@thomasahester2)
When speaking about the impact Malcolm X had, Ossie Davis explained he was our manhood. Though Davis’ remark was for Malcolm it’s still relevant for another man, Muhammad Ali.
When he criticized for his association with the black Muslims and was denied his name he fought Floyd Patterson to prove his worth. Beating his opponent throughly within the fight before knocking him out in the 12th round. In 1967 after being internationally loved he rejected the draft for the Vietnam War and his heavy championship was taken from his. Banned for years, in his prime he still didn’t back down.
Muhammad Ali was unapologetically black. Like Jack Johnson’s ‘unforgivable blackness’ he was brash, speaking his mind and not compromising to any one’s standards.
As a social activist he stood up for what he believed was right and others followed. Jim Brown, Lew Alcindor, Bill Russell and other black athletes showed solidarity with Ali after refusing induction into the Army. He cited his religious beliefs as the reason why he wouldn’t accept the draft and take another’s life regardless of whichever war.
The Cleveland Summit was where this legendary meeting took place. Which laid the groundwork for other prominent athletes to stand up for what they believe. When LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Reggie Bush and other prominent players wore the I Can’t Breathe shirts it received praise from the sitting black president, Obama. Cleveland Browns’, Andrew Hawkins joined the fray speaking up for Tamir Rice & John Crawford emphasizing how in America you have the right to receive justice and freedom of speech.
There are some professed disciples who only took the brashness and not the discipline like Adrien Broner but there are some who have the swagger but also the skill.
Floyd Mayweather is the greatest defender of all time. He also is conscious of his position. With Al Haymon he’s created his own empire, The Money Team where he empowers his own and keep the profits for himself. The evolution is evident because unlike Don King with Mike Tyson their relationship is symbiotic.
Ali had an unbelievable pride. Winning an Olympic Gold and receiving praise in Rome then when he went back home was denied service unlike other white patrons and realizing racial progression hasn’t happened he threw the medal in the Ohio River.
Now in his death there are many sharing of stories showcasing his generosity, kindness and boldness. When he was banned from boxing he still traveled to many colleges and debated with students challenging their world views to explain Ali’s reasonings for risking his career.
After 9/11 even with fighting his own battles with Parkinson’s he still used his influence and voice to speak up for Muslims during a time when there was extreme fear and prejudice to those who may be considered ‘foreigner’ or even worst ‘terrorist’. His courage may have influenced many from becoming hateful after realizing their favorite athletes like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali are both Muslim.