Statements from Mohammed Ali

Muhammad Ali was called up for the Vietnam war in 1966 not long after he became world heavyweight champion.  His very first comment was “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”  Subsequently he said: “Why should they [the army] 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 Lousville are treated like dogs? 

If I thought going to war would bring freedom and equality to twenty-two million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me.  I’d join tomorrow.  But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah.  I have nothing to lose by standing up and following my beliefs. 

We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”  In 1967 he was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000 for refusing to fight; he fought through the courts and finally in 1971 the Supreme Court upheld his right to refuse, but he could not defend his title for three and a half years and did not regain the heavyweight championship until 1974. 

It is estimated that he lost $10m in fight fees and endorsements; he never regretted his decision, saying “I was determined to be one nigger that the white man didn’t get.  One nigger that you didn’t get, white man. You understand? One nigger you ain’t going to get.”

Refuse to kill