There have been many things said since Friday night about Muhammad Ali including his three-year exile from boxing because he refused military induction on April 28, 1967. But, was Muhammad Ali fairly treated by various state athletic commissions and the boxing establishment when he was stripped of his title? The answer was provided by a judge in 1970 when Ali received his New York State boxing license again. He did not get the chance to state his case before state athletic commissions and boxing authorities.
In 1967, there was a sudden judgment by political appointees in many states that Ali was unfit to fight because he was a draft evader. Ali never left the country; he said he would go to jail and stood on his principles. There were very few willing to take up his cause in the media, and if there was such a thing as the liberal media, sports columnists would have been writing that Ali was deprived of due process. This was not done by the United States government as he appealed the charge of draft evasion and eventually would win his case in the Supreme Court, but by political appointees and boxing itself. Ali had no union to fight for him and was disliked by old, crusty writers like Red Smith and Dick Young, along with the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune and Sports Illustrated.
Howard Cosell took up Ali’s fight as did Robert Lipsyte. The anti-war protests which had started in 1965 began tearing apart the country. Ali was not in jail and should have kept fighting. The question allowing Ali to box should have been decided by the public, not political appointees or sportswriters. In 1970, Atlanta promoters not barred by political hacks in Georgia, which had no commission, decided to bring him back into the ring.
Politics prevented Ali from fighting as he never got due process from gubernatorial political appointees.
By Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.