Muhammad Ali refusing the draft

Discussion in 'Vietnam War' started by primalclaws1974, Jan 16, 2015.

  1. As most people probably know, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted. His famous lines included "I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong" and "No Vietcong ever called me n****r". He was sentenced to five years in prison, $10,000 fine and was supposed to stay out of the ring three years. He did no jail time upon appeal, but did pay the fine and it was just over three years when he re-entered the ring. Do you think Ali really refused the draft out of principles or was it cowardice? Did he not want to lose time fighting when he could have been building his boxing career? Did his fame spare him the jail sentence?
  2. DancingLady

    DancingLady Member

    I can't answer all of that, and we can't get inside his head. But not wanting to kill others is certainly a possible reason. Generally people don't want to do that, even if they feel their nation has reason to be in the war. Vietnam was very controversial and not everyone wanted us to be there. Anyone who did not agree with going in the first place would certainly want to avoid having to fight people they had no quarrel with.
  3. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    All I can give is commentary and personal opinion as I have never met the boxer in question, and have not followed his case. With that said, I do not think a coward for refusing induction, but rather think him the wiser and braver for it. It took much courage to take the stand of his convictions.

    As a celebrity and national icon sports star one has to question the motives of the draft-board in chosing him to be conscripted. What might he have trained to do? Be a Clerk-Typist? Artillery? No, it might have been a re-make of what happened to Joe Lewis, another professional boxer, during WWII. That, or what happened to Mickey Rooney.

    I am reminded of what happened to Peter Ustinov during WWII. At some point a sergeant-clerk-paymaster interviewed him regarding his outside income while in uniform. The sergeant, who must have thought his 5pounds weekly stipend lordly over the pay of Private Ustinov, asked him how much he made. Peter hesitated. "It is hard to say because it varies so."

    The sergeant now convinced it must be a trifling sum asked: "well, what was your outside income last week?" "Two hundred-fifty pounds. I have two plays in production in the West End."

    The sergeant fell off his chair.

    And what would Private Ali's income drop have been?
  4. DancingLady

    DancingLady Member

    I would at least hope his decision was not about money. I do not think personal finances and career a good reason to make such s statement unless there is an issue of one needing to provide for family that otherwise could not make ends meet.
  5. GearZ

    GearZ Member

    I don't know the individual personally, so cannot get inside his head. That said, his sentiment was very common in that era; many Americans in general, but quite a few African-Americans in particular. Remember, the civil rights movement was still battling it out in that time frame and some members of the black community weren't particularly into fighting and dying for a war they didn't start for a country that denied them basic rights. The Armed Forces had been desegregated by that time, but many states still had discriminatory laws very much in force. I'm not saying I personally agree or disagree with that point of view, but it most certainly was not an usual sentiment to hold in that time and place.
  6. thomas pendrake

    thomas pendrake Active Member

    I found it ironic that Cassius Clay changed his name from that of his slave holding family to that of slave traders, who to this day sell black slaves. Christians have rejected slave-holding, and had strict rules governing treatment of slaves. The major slave traders of this day are supposed muslims.
  7. thomas pendrake

    thomas pendrake Active Member

    The thing that first caught my attention with this post was the implication that the civil rights movement is not still battling it out. Not just the race issue, but many other issues concerning civil rights are still being contested daily. Also I remind everyone that the Southern armed forces were desegregated long before the national armed forces. The issue of war or peace is an ongoing debate, but I think that we should rethink our abandonment of Universal Military Training. I disliked the draft, but I believe we should all have an involvement in our country. Too many people are ignorant of what it means to be part of our society.
  8. Jason76

    Jason76 New Member

    You can't really force anyone to fight for something they don't believe in. Ali didn't like the war, and he payed the price for it. At least he didn't do cowardly acts like fleeing to Canada, or making himself sick, as in the case of Ted Nugent. :D

    Anyhow, wouldn't soldiers who hated the war be poor fighters? Ideally, a military force wants "true believers".
  9. thomas pendrake

    thomas pendrake Active Member

    The draft probably wouldn't be ideal for the current type of war, but I am certain (based on experience) that it would supply many troops who would decide that they were ready to fight, and it would supply many excellent support personnel, often filled these days by for profit contractors at far greater cost.
  10. Jason76

    Jason76 New Member

    Elvis went to Germany and didn't demand special or softer treatment. Obviously that won him a lot of respect among fans. Some other celebrities did fight in wars, but many got softer treatment than regular soldiers.
  11. thomas pendrake

    thomas pendrake Active Member

    I was very opposed to being drafted, but was willing to serve in a capacity that I felt was appropriate for myself. After I completed basic training I felt better about the entire process. I would like to see universal military training and some reserve system for most people. Then we could have a professional core to the military. Even the anti military people would have a better understanding of the military.
  12. CemeteryGates23

    CemeteryGates23 New Member

    I'm not quite sure that alone would propagate an understand of the military.
    I say so as a Mexican, and in Mexico all males are subject, upon coming of age, to a random draw with four possible outcomes.
    You literally draw a colored sphere. I think White means you do some paperwork and you're done; Green means you do military training every weekend for a year; Blue means you go through Navy training, including being stationed in a port or ship for a few months; and there was a fourth option that I can't recall at the moment. The vast majority draw Green. To be honest with you, I never went to the draw, but that means I never got some paper that's crucial as a citizen.

    My point is that Mexico was peaceful until recent years and the mandatory military service most men go through has done for the military, for military culture, defense culture, or anything related, really. Perhaps it's the quality of the service, I have no clue about that, but it's something to consider.
  13. nailah783

    nailah783 Member

    I think it was the era. There were so many people protesting the war and so many people standing against it. It is not surprising that he refused the draft. The reasons for it could have just been his principles or it could have been that he was still trying to build his career. Who really knows with Ali? He was a different kind of guy.
  14. tlspiegel

    tlspiegel New Member

    True... and as far as I know, Muhammad Ali has never spoken publicly about his views on why he refused the draft. He seemed like a fearless individual at the time, so in my opinion, he wasn't being a coward. Probably a combination of career and principles.
  15. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Woah. Never spoken? This brave fighter for a time paid the bills by traveling to colleges where he was invited to speak on a variety of subjects. It took me only a minute to locate several clips on youtube:

    jrj1701 likes this.
  16. tlspiegel

    tlspiegel New Member

    So, it was based on his religious beliefs... his principles.
  17. nailah783

    nailah783 Member

    Has anyone seen the show Drunk History about this subject? I just watched it this weekend. It was really funny, but mostly they did point out that it was his religious beliefs. Like I said before though, who really knows when it comes to Ali? He can say things and not mean it just like the rest of us. He could have said his religion and really meant because he just wanted to box and not go to war. He could have said it was his religion just so he could save face. Who really knows besides him?
  18. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    OMG. Do not use Drunk "History" to learn History any more than you would use drunk driving to learn how to drive.
  19. Kbar6

    Kbar6 New Member

    Ali was in the prime of his career. I suspect that was foremost in his mind at the time.
  20. TheApollonian

    TheApollonian Deus Ex Machina

    After having watched a lot of documentaries about the Vietnam war and the people surrounding it I still don't know why Ali refused the draft. I have not met him myself so all I have are my opinions. I think because faith and religion was important to him where non-violence was being espoused I think morally he'd say that killing others, even in war situations is wrong. Also, he was at his prime it could've killed his career if he got injured or it could've literally killed him. Plus I think Ali never felt like he should sacrifice his life for a country that abused his people for a very long time. All opinions, all conjecture but yeah it's probably because of his beliefs.

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