Tag Archives: Muhammad Ali

Ali might get pardon? Eh? For what?

Donald J. “Ignoramus in Chief” Trump Sr. reportedly is considering a pardon for, get a load of this, the late Muhammad Ali.

Please, Mr. President, do some homework — for once, will ya?

The Greatest does not need a pardon. Do you understand?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1971 that the boxing authorities that stripped Ali of his heavyweight champion title violated his constitutional rights that (a) guaranteed his freedom of religion, (b) allowed him to protest peaceably the federal government and (c) allowed him freedom of speech.

You see, Ali protested the Vietnam War by refusing in 1967 to accept induction into the U.S. Army; he cited his Muslim faith as the basis for his refusal to be drafted. The boxing authorities then decided to deny him the right to earn a living by stripping him of his ability to box, to defend his heavyweight title. He was cast out of boxing for more than three years.

The nation’s highest court rectified that injustice by overturning his conviction on draft evasion. What’s more, President Jimmy Carter issued a pardon for all Vietnam War draft dodgers — and that included Muhammad Ali.

Earth to Trump: The Greatest of All Time does not need a presidential pardon!

Now, get ready for that summit with Kim Jong Un.

Is this the work of a ‘fraud’?

I wasn’t looking for proof of a political accusation, but one has presented itself anyway.

In 2016, former Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney peeled the bark off the party’s primary frontrunner when he called Donald John Trump Sr. a “fraud” and a “phony.”

I thought at the time that the 2012 GOP nominee was talking exclusively about Trump’s penchant for bellicosity and insults. However, in the past few days, some things have come into sharper focus.

The president campaigned for office proclaiming his immense skill as a deal maker. He promised time and time again on the stump that he’d make the “best deals” in the history of humankind … or words to that effect. He vowed that the nation no longer would be snookered into falling for “bad deals.”

Well, here we are. One year into Trump’s time in office, the nation’s government is shut down. The president has been unable to deliver on one of those fundamental promises of his winning presidential campaign. He hasn’t cut any deal at all, let alone any bad deals.

I guess I can presume that’s what Mitt meant when he called Trump a “fraud.”

The late, great heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali used to say about his predictions about when he’d knock his foes out that “It ain’t braggin’ if you do it.”

Donald Trump needs to quit braggin’ if he can’t deliver the goods.

POTUS keeps telling us how smart, rich, non-racist he is

Heroes don’t brag about their heroic acts.

Geniuses don’t tell us how smart they are.

Great athletes — the late, great Muhammad Ali notwithstanding — don’t crow about their athletic prowess.

Wealthy folks don’t boast about their riches.

And non-racists don’t need to tell us they aren’t racist.

So … why does Donald John “Stable, Rich, Non-Racist Genius” Trump Sr. insist on reminding us of his myriad admirable qualities?

The president stood alongside a fellow Republican this past weekend, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and told us that he is “not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.” The response was directed, I presume, at a reporter who had asked Trump “Are you a racist?”

I am baffled by this president’s insistence on reminding us of the things that need no reminder.

The racist label has been given new prominence in the wake of Trump’s statement about immigrants coming here from “s**thole countries” that, by the way, happen to be populated by citizens with dark skin. This statement attributed to the president, of course, follows a distinct pattern of disparagement and disrespect of certain individuals and institutions.

So, he tells us he is “not a racist.” Big … deal! His actions and his myriad utterances over many years suggest something quite different.

He bellows about how rich he is. Then he refuses to release his tax returns, ignoring a custom followed by presidential nominees for the past 40 years. Those returns would tell us whether he is as rich as he claims to be.

And his intelligence? Well, he keeps yapping about how he knows “the best words,” and how he attended the “best college,” where he was an academic star. Just wondering: Has anyone seen this guy’s college transcript?

As CNN’s Chis Cillizza has noted, the president clearly is “overcompensating” for what appear to be some serious shortcomings.

My own view is that someone who tells you he is the “best” at anything, he usually isn’t. If he has to remind us that he is “not a racist,” well, you know …

Is it gut-check time for the NFL?

The National Football League needs to re-evaluate a few priorities.

A young man is trying to find a spot with one of the NFL’s professional football teams. He’s a pretty good quarterback. He once led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013.

Then he did something foolish, perhaps even stupid. He decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games. Colin Kaepernick was protesting the plight of African-Americans. He decided to make a political statement by declining to stand for the Anthem.

He’s been vilified ever since.

Why the NFL re-evaluation? Well consider a thing or two. The league has allowed actual convicted felons to play football. They’ve been convicted of spousal abuse, sexual abuse, illegal dog fighting, drug peddling. Why, one of the game’s all-time greats — retired linebacker Ray Lewis — once pleaded no contest to a charge in connection with the murder of an individual. He retired recently and has been feted as one of the game’s giants. Huh? Yep.

Kaepernick has been convicted of nothing. He has committed no crime. He merely chose to make a political statement. Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it that way. But that is his prerogative. It’s in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees him the right to do what he did.

Kaepernick was waived by the 49ers. He wants to keep playing football. General managers, team owners and head coaches are afraid of fan reaction, I suppose.

Check out John Feinstein’s excellent column on Kaepernick right here.

Do you remember when a young boxer declined induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious objection to the Vietnam War? The late Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 and then denied the opportunity to fight for a living. He was deprived of more than three prime years of his career. Then in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ali had been denied his constitutional right of religious freedom.

Ali returned to the boxing ring and, well, the rest is history.

Colin Kaepernick is facing much of the same recrimination. It is unjust. It’s gut-check time in the NFL.

Boxing has come to this?

Once upon a time — a lifetime or two ago — I was a big boxing fan.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. would win the heavyweight boxing championship in 1964, change his name to Muhammad Ali and then dominate the sweet science for, oh, the next 15 or so years.

Yeah, he was stripped of his title for more than three years over his religious objection to the Vietnam War. Even then, he was The Man.

Boxing eventually took a turn away from the simplicity of the sport. It formed a lot of governing boxing authorities. Each of them recognized their version of “world champion.” They expanded the number of weight classes. There were so many “world champions,” no one could keep track of them. Some of these weight classes are topped by something called “interim champion,” whatever the hell that means!

Now the sport has come to a new level of carnival spectacle. It has scheduled a match between a retired “world champion” and a mixed martial arts goon. The boxing/MMA world is agog over the prospect of former champion boxer Floyd Mayweather fighting MMA champ Connor McGregor sometime this year.

Who’s going to win? I don’t know and I don’t care.

I do know that boxing has now resorted to creating circus acts to gin up attention for a sport in serious decline.

If only we could return to the era when the heavyweight boxing champion of the world was the baddest man on Earth.

Oh, do I miss Muhammad Ali.

Feeling so-o-o-o busted

A friend of mine outed me this morning after I wrote a blog post criticizing the FBI for spending public money to look for quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen jersey.

I wrote that the feds didn’t have a role to play in looking for a damn shirt worn by Brady the day he led the New England Patriots to their stunning Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

My friend responded with this query: How would I feel if the trunks that Muhammad Ali wore the night he defeated Joe Frazier in Manila had been stolen?

Oh, my goodness! I was so very busted by my friend, to whom I responded “knows me too well.” He must know how I feel about The Champ. How I revered him for so many years as he fought with such power, speed and grace. And how he became such a huge civil rights voice during the time he was exiled from professional boxing because he stood up in protest of the Vietnam War.

My response to my friend was that I would feel differently. I joked that I would have mobilized the armed forces to find Muhammad Ali’s stolen trunks.

Actually, I wouldn’t do such a thing.

Although …

My friend clearly decked me with that question. He gave me pause.

The FBI has been in the news a good bit of late for reasons that speak directly to its mission. Looking for a quarterback’s stolen jersey just doesn’t seem to fit that bill.

Good job, FBI, in helping find a shirt

Muhammad Ali’s son detained at airport … for real!

Put yourself in the place of an airport customs/security agent for a moment.

A young man comes off an airplane that’s just traveled to the United States from a foreign airport. He presents his passport to you and it has the name “Muhammad Ali Jr.” on it.

What do you ask the young man?

If it were me — and I was allowed under customs protocol — I would ask: “Are you the son of The Greatest of All Time? Was your late, legendary father really The Champ, the baddest, prettiest, greatest heavyweight boxer in history?”

If he said “yes,” I’d stamp his passport, tell him how much I admired his dad and let him through.

That didn’t happen recently at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood (Fla.) International Airport. Muhammad Ali Jr. arrived there on a flight from Jamaica. He was detained. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials say he wasn’t detained because he is a Muslim. They offered vague reasons for acting as they did.

Ali was profiled, according to an Ali family lawyer. The officials asked him if he is Muslim and asked him where he got his name. As USA Today reported: “Customs spokesman Daniel Hetlage declined to provide details of the incident, citing policies that protect travelers’ privacy, but he wrote in an email that the agency does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

“‘We treat all travelers with respect and sensitivity,’ he said. ‘Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles.'”

Young Ali, who’s 44, is blessed — or cursed, perhaps, depending on the circumstance — with having arguably the most famous name on the planet. It also is the name of world’s most beloved Muslim.

Part of me wants to ridicule the officer who stopped Ali Jr. Another part of me, though, suggests the officer was just doing his job.

Goodbye and good riddance, 2016


We’re still about two weeks from the end of a truly crappy year.

Not for me personally, mind you. My health remains good, as does my wife’s health. We’re spending more time on the road in our recreational vehicle and having a blast every mile we’ve traveled. Our family is doing well, too. We’ve got some big changes in store for the coming year. You’ll be hearing about them as they develop.

No, this year sucks out loud because of the deaths that have occurred. I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself by taking note this far in advance of the end of the year. It’s been a tough time for iconic figures. For instance, we lost:

David Bowie, the genius British musician, songwriter, actor and trailblazing artist, died of cancer. Iggy Stardust is no longer with us. I knew he had cancer, but like a lot of his fans, I was unaware that his time had run out.

Prince died at his suburban Minneapolis mansion. Talk about a genius. Wow! Have you seen that tremendous guitar riff he did during the 2002 concert memorializing the late Beatle George Harrison? He also left behind a vault full of hundreds of unpublished songs.

Muhammad Ali bid us farewell. This one hurt terribly. The three-time heavyweight boxing champion was far more than a warrior in the ring. He was a champion for the causes in which he believed. He fought for civil rights, against the Vietnam War (which cost  him his title) and for justice. Oh, and he was the most beautiful fighter any of us ever had seen. He fought with power and blazing speed and grace.

Arnold Palmer is gone, too. They called him The King of Golf. His majesty, indeed, brought golf into the television age. He was a man’s man. He played great — and exciting — golf. He was a middle-class guy who won — and lost — in unconventional ways. Fellow golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez once said it well: “Every golfer today owes everything to  Arnold Palmer.”

John Glenn was 95 when he died just recently. He was a former U.S. senator, a Marine fighter pilot and an astronaut. Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth, on Feb. 20, 1962. He returned to space 36 years later to become the oldest man, at age 77, to ever fly in space; he took his place in the space shuttle Discovery, which lifted off the launch pad carrying “six astronaut heroes and one American legend.”

I cannot recall a single year producing this level of national and international mourning.

Oh, and we had that presidential campaign, too. It didn’t turn out the way many of us wanted. We’ll persevere, I’m sure.

So long, 2016, and good riddance! You really sucked all year long.

Fighter of the Year … finally!


The Ring Magazine has been called the pre-eminent publication about professional boxing.

It made a huge mistake in 1966, though, in failing to name the then-heavyweight champion of the world its Fighter of the Year.

The magazine declined to give the honor to a fellow named Muhammad Ali, who defended his title five times that year, wiping out the competition with ease. Ali was at the peak of his boxing powers.

The magazine, though, disliked his objection to the Vietnam War as well as his affiliation with the Nation of Islam. It refused to call him by the name he chose and used his birth name, Cassius Clay, when referencing The Champ.

Times change — and so do attitudes.


The magazine has decided to grant Ali the title he deserved all along. Fifty years later, Ring has named Ali its Fighter of the Year for 1966, to along with several other such honors the magazine had granted him. It didn’t select a Fighter of the Year in 1966.

It’s a curious thing, though, about the timing of this decision.

Ali won his court fight over his suspension from boxing in 1971, when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that boxing authorities had violated his constitutional rights by denying him the chance to earn a living. Ring honored him with Fighter of the Year accolades in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1978. It also honored him in 1963, before he announced his Muslim faith.

Ali died this year at the age of 74.

A more fitting tribute would have been to grant the honor denied to Ali while he was still able to accept and appreciate it.

Those of us — along with his loved ones — who marveled at the man’s skill in the ring and his courage outside of it will accept the honor on The Champ’s behalf.

Rio Olympics coming to a … fascinating end


This blog post has been updated.

I’ll admit a few things here about the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and acknowledge a surprise or two.

* I didn’t like the opening ceremony. Yes, it was colorful to the max, but I didn’t understand much of its significance. My Olympic opening ceremony gold standard was set in 1996 in Atlanta, when the organizers surprised the world as Muhammad Ali — the Greatest — stepped out of the shadows to light the cauldron. I cried like a baby sitting in front of my TV watching The Champ light the flame, as did all the spectators in the stadium that night.

What’s more, there was something oddly out of place when the Brazilians decided to inject the politics of climate change and global warming into the ceremony. While I generally agree that climate change is a profound international problem, was the Olympic opening ceremony the appropriate place to make that statement?

* I hadn’t planned on watching much of the competition, but then I did watch. A lot of it.

Michael Phelps made me proud. The zillion-time gold medal winning swimmer came back for his fifth Olympics and at the age of 31 managed to dominate the men’s swimming competition. He overcame some serious personal demons to get himself into the best shape of his life and he didn’t disappoint. Five golds and a silver? Not bad … for an “old man.”

Katie Ledecky was the actual star of the pool, though. The young American not only was winning her races, she was winning them by a lot.

* Simone Manuel was another swimming star who made me proud. The young Texan came out of nowhere to capture our hearts, particularly as she wept while listening to the National Anthem during the awards ceremony.

* The U.S. women’s gymnastics team. What more can I say about those youngsters? Holy moly, man!

Gabby Douglas, one of the gymnasts, had nothing for which to apologize for not putting her hand over heart during the anthem. She stood there respectfully and showed class by riveting her eyes on the flag as it rose.

Usain Bolt is the fastest human being in the world. The Jamaican sprinter served notice that it’s not how well you start a race that matters, it’s how you finish it. As ol’ Dizzy Dean used to say while calling a baseball game on TV, “That fella can pick ’em up and lay ‘e down.”

* Oh, and one more takeaway. The swimmer Ryan Lochte, who is 32 years of age, is about to lose a fortune in endorsement income because he messed up so royally by partying with his swim-team buddies and then making up the story about being robbed at a Rio gasoline service station. Good grief, dude! Get out of my face!

I don’t know how the International Olympic Committee chairman is going to characterize the Rio Games when he closes the event down Sunday night. Will it be “outstanding,” or “exceptional,” or simply some other less-glorious adjective? Observers often rate the success of an Olympics by the way the IOC boss hails the event at its conclusion.

I’ll rate the Games “outstanding.”

It was a fun ride in Rio.