– Muhammad Ali –
In 1967, Muhammad Ali was the heavyweight champion of the world. His was easily one of the most recognizable & famous athletes in the entire world. In 1967 the United States was also engulfed in a very serious war in Vietnam. Ali would be called on via draft to join the fight for his country but he refused enlistment based upon his stated opposition to the war & his beliefs as a Muslim. Ali was arrested, prosecuted & found guilty of draft evasion. He would be stripped of his title & his license to fight was suspended. Ali did not fight again for 3 years.
In 1971 the Supreme Court overruled his conviction & he would begin fighting soon thereafter. In 1975 he would face the reigning heavyweight champion, George Foreman, in Zaire. It is argued that this is the most famous case of an individual athlete making a political statement. His decision was a major discussion starter regarding both the draft as well as the war in Vietnam. At this time the polls showed that most Americans agreed with Ali’s refusal to serve & over the ages it has been romanticized as an individual standing up for his ideals against war.
– Pat Tillman –
In the wake of one of the most tragic events in American history, the 9/11 terror attacks, Arizona Cardinal safety quit his rising NFL career & enlisted in the US Army. After receiving an offer to extend his career with the Arizona Cardinals which would have earned him 3.6 million over 3 years, Tillman decided instead to turn it down & join the military in May 2002. After serving in Iraq, Tillman would become an Army Ranger in late 2003.
After being deployed to Afghanistan he was killed by friendly fire on April 22nd, 2004. Today Tillman’s motivation for giving up his chosen profession in the NFL remains a mystery. Those close to him are in conflict about his religious & political beliefs but one thing is for sure, after 9/11 he felt it was more important to fight for his country than it was to fight on the football field. It was a very bold political statement which echoes even stronger in the wake of his unfortunate death.
You see through the ages many people have used whatever influence they have to manipulate political views. It should come as no surprise to us that these man acted as they have. They are doing nothing other than what has occurred over & over through the ages. It would be so much more surprising if there were no examples of the influence politics over sports or visa versa. As we walk forward through time you can surely expect to see much more of the same happening still.