The New Athlete
The emergence and rise to fame of Muhammad Ali was unlike any athlete before him. He did not follow the rules set before him that were followed by the black athletes that preceded him. The prominent black athletes before Ali were weary to say anything too controversial at the time. They feared being rejected by the white man. Many of the black athletes could even be categorized as white sympathizers, as they would follow the orders of white men. Ali did not fear the white man and chose to speak and act the way he wished. He followed the then radical ideas of the Nation of Islam. He chose to not fight in the Vietnam War and actively spoke out against it. The actions and words of Ali cannot be matched to any prominent black athlete before him. When comparing Ali to Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson, and Jackie Robinson it can especially be seen that Ali is a new type of black athlete because of his arrogance and outspokenness, religious views, and his stance on the Vietnam War.
Joe Louis was an athlete that many white individuals could support. He did not promote the “radical” ideas that white people claimed Ali promoted. He did not speak out against America, the white people who lived here, and racial injustices. He did not refuse to fight in a war because of the ideas promoted by his country. Ali is guilty is doing all these acts listed above. Joe Louis was never an advocate for Christianity, but he never promoted the “worrisome” ideas of the Nation of Islam or any other non-Christian religion. When Ali chose to be an advocate for the Nation of Islam, he did something that no famous black athlete, including Joe Louis, ever did. He promoted and advocated for ideas that many Americans, especially black athletes, would never publicly speak for. Ali’s promotion of the Nation of Islam is unlike any black athlete before, demonstrating how he is a new type of black athlete[footnoteRef:1]. [1: David Remnick, King of the World, (New York: Vintagw Vooks, 1998), 198]
Ali also used his podium to speak out against the racial injustices that black individuals faced. Black athletes have occasionally done this, but never had it been done with the intensity Ali used. The closest Joe Louis ever came to criticizing racist acts are when he said, “Hitler ain’t going to fix them” when referring to the troubles black people faced in America[footnoteRef:2]. Ali on the other used almost every opportunity to speak out about the injustices faced by black Americans. He said some encouraging and accepted statements such as, “In your struggle for freedom, justice and equality I am with you. I came to Louisville because I could not remain silent while my own people… were being beaten, stomped and kicked in the streets simply because they want freedom, and justice and equality…” But often times, Ali said many controversial statements including "Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up." These statements separated him from Joe Louis and...