MUHAMMAD ALI WINS 2009 ‘ADVANCEMENT
OF COLORED PEOPLE’ PRESIDENT’S WARD
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK — He simply is the greatest.
Twenty eight years after his farewell bout in the square jungle, Muhammad Ali continues to inspire his fans both in and outside the world of prizefighting.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has adjudged him as this year’s winner of the President’s Award and will receive the honor in Los Angeles, California during the NAACP Image Award on Feb. 12.
In giving him the award, the civil-rights group recognizes Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, for his “special achievement and distinguished public service.”
The group says Ali’s accomplishments in the boxing ring are matched by his record of social activism and humanitarian efforts. The announcement was made February 5.
Halle Berry and screenwriter- actor Tyler Perry are set to host the 40th annual awards show, which will air on Fox TV. The ceremony falls on the 100th anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and kicks off the group’s yearlong centennial celebration.
Ali had 56 wins with 37 knockouts against five losses in a professional career that was interrupted by the stripping of his boxing license by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) and his world heavyweight title after he refused to serve the United States Army during the Vietnam War.
In defending his decision not to be inducted into the U.S. Army, Ali publicly considered himself as “conscientious objector” and stated that “War is against the teachings of the Holy Qu’ran. I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.”
The heavyweight celebrity also famously said in 1966: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong … They never called me nigger.”
Appearing for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967 in Houston, he refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, on that same day, the NYSAC suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Other boxing commissions followed suit.
At the trial two months later, the jury, after only 21 minutes of deliberation, found Ali guilty. After a court of appeals upheld the conviction, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. During this time, people turned against the war, and support for Ali grew. Ali financially supported himself by visiting many college universities to give speeches across the country. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction for refusing induction by unanimous decision.