There’s really not much more I can add to the remembrances of Muhammad Ali today except to say that my profound sense of sadness on news of his death mirrors the profound sense of sadness I had about his life: specifically, the treatment he received because opposed the war in Vietnam, and because he dared speak against white America.
Let’s think for a moment about the people in this country who are willing to stand against something, knowing they’d pay a tremendous personal and career price for their principles.
I got nothing. You?
Then, as now, a lot of people who talk fancy about freedom and the Constitution couldn’t be bothered defending it.
Sports columnist Jerry Izenberg paid a price for defending Ali. Newspapers dropped his column.
“I defended him because my father instilled in me an appreciation and love of this country’s freedom of speech and religion, something his father brought him halfway around the world at age 8 to find,” he wrote today. “I defended him because of the slice of social conscience that my old boss Stanley Woodward burned into my newspaperman’s soul. I defended him because I believed it was right.”
A lot of chuckleheads, like William F. Buckley, asked Ali why he didn’t just move to Canada if he was so against the war and America’s treatment of some of its citizens.
Izenberg asked the same question.
“I thought you knew me better than that,” Ali replied. “America is my home. Do you think I would let somebody chase me out of my home? Nobody is going to chase me out of my birthplace. If they say I have to go to jail, then I will. But I’m not gonna run away, and you should know it.”