The Popcorn Stand: Judging Ali — As a whole
There are those who are still understandably upset with Muhammad Ali. I get it. And it seems my story in Friday’s Appeal on Carson City photographer Charles Adams, who was a personal photographer of Ali, and his effort to promote Ali’s legacy, has struck a chord with some people and not in a positive way.
To some in this country — especially those who lived through the turbulent 1960s — Ali was a radical draft dodger and that will never change. And it’s true, we have short-term memories. If Ali did and said some of the things today he did and said in the 1960s, he would make Colin Kaepernick look like a choir boy.
But one could also judge Bear Bryant in the same way. Bryant was an enigma whose Alabama football team became the last in the South to integrate. But yet he became a champion for African-American athletes who once said, “I don’t have white football players, I don’t have black football players, I just have football players.”
The same could be said for Ali. And while there’s the belief Ali became rich off of a country he betrayed — an opinion I believe some unfairly have of Kaepernick — nothing could be further from the truth.
First, Ali wasn’t a draft dodger. He stayed here and faced the consequences. Yes, he fully used the legal system, but his four-year legal battle left him broke (he was not allowed to fight during that time).
There’s an excellent HBO movie, “Muhammad Ai’s Greatest Fight” that chronicles the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Ali’s conviction. Yes, the Supreme Court did it on a technicality — it didn’t want to set a precedent in which all Muslims could refuse military service.
And it should be noted Justice Thurgood Marshall recused himself from the case because he was no fan of Ali because the two had far different views on integration at the time. Marshall was a huge advocate of integration. Ali was not.
But in the end wasn’t Ali as an American citizen given the same rights we all supposedly cherish? Again, patriotism isn’t a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing.
My next statement is certainly going to upset those who still can’t forgive Ali. Regardless of his past, Ali went onto become one of the greatest humanitarians the world has ever known. Right up there with Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa.
I get it, there are still those who can’t forgive Ali. There are veterans who still can’t forgive Jane Fonda.
But I will always try to judge a person — the whole person — as fair as I can.
— Charles Whisnand