On this date in 1967, Muhammed Ali was arrested for refusing his conscription into the US military for the Vietnam War. Ali was the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, and arguably the most famous athlete in the world, perhaps of all time. Yet later that day he was stripped of his titles and effectively banned from boxing for more than 3 years, at the height of his athletic prowess.
Ali was already a powerful symbol for African-American Civil Rights. His decision to be a conscientious objector, refusing to be drafted for the Vietnam War, elevated his status in the US and around the world as a counter-cultural icon. He stated, “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?” (source) Ali would eventually box again, regaining his championship belts, but it is his status as a champion of peace and of human rights that make him a true hero.
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