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Zirin on McGwire, Ali

posted by dru Geography: USA Topics: sports, racism

February 6, 2007

Zirin on McGwire, Ali

Dave Zirin: "I would also add that half the [Baseball Hall of Fame] is made of players who operated under the ultimate 'performance enhancer', not having to compete against people with dark skin."

For those not familiar, Dave Zirin writes a great column about sports and politics at EdgeofSports.com. He's also got a new book coming out. Check out this bit from his latest piece on Muhammed Ali:

Ali could have recanted, apologized, or signed up on some cushy USO gig boxing for the troops and the cameras, ultimately to go back to making money. But he refused. At one press conference later that year, he was expected to apologize for his "un-American" remarks. Instead he said, "Keep asking me, no matter how long. On the war in Vietnam, I sing this song, I ain't got no quarrel with the Vietcong. Clean out my cell and take my tail to jail. 'Cause better to be in jail fed than to be in Vietnam dead."

Ali's position gave courage to people around the country to stand up and be heard. In 1967, over the objections of many supporters in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King came out against the war. In his initial statements, he said, "Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all--black and brown and poor--victims of the same system of oppression." Ali was stripped of his title, costing him millions of dollars. He was given a five-year prison sentence, which was later overturned on appeal.

In a Toronto gym, sports writer Jerry Izenberg asked Ali whether he might try to stay in Canada. Ali responded, "Of course I'm going home. The United States is my birth country. People can't chase me out of my birth country. I believe what I believe, and you know what that is. If I have to go to jail, I'll do it, but I'm not leaving my country to live in Canada." As the corrupt boxing world strove to fill the now-vacant title, protesters appeared outside the bouts with placards reading, "Hell No, We Ain't Goin'" and "Fight Racism, Free Muhammad Ali."

Ali himself said, "Everybody knows I'm the champion. My ghost will haunt all the arenas. I'll be there, wearing a sheet and whispering, 'Ali-e-e-e! Ali-e-e-e!'"

That's sportswriting.

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