Sports | October 21, 2017 5:00 am

Muhammad Ali’s Ties to the Current NFL Protests

A new biography looks into the protest history of the boxer.

Muhammad Ali
Sonny Liston lies out for the count after being KO'd in the first round of his return title fight by world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, Lewiston, Maine, May 25, 1965. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A new biography about Muhammad Ali by Jonathan Eig, Ali: A Life, details his literal trials and tribulations that Ali faced his whole life. The boxer, who was also famous for his activism, first spoke out against the Vietnam War in 1967, according to Smithsonian Magazine. He was the most famous antiwar figure at the time and filed paperwork to excuse himself from service as a conscientious objector.

Smithsonian writes that Ali’s visibility led other Americans to question the war and the dissonance between African-American troops fighting abroad for a country that showed them little respect when they were home. Eig’s book details what happens when a world-famous black athlete speaks out against racism at home. He was called a traitor, he was compared to Benedict Arnold, he was stripped of the championship title he had been working towards his whole career, and his boxing license was suspended, writes Smithsonian. 

Eig said that the similarities between Ali’s fight and the current backlash against Colin Kaepernick are “uncanny.”

“It’s been eerie to watch it, that we’re still having these debates that black athletes should be expected to shut their mouths and perform for us,” Eig said, according to Smithsonian. “That’s what people told Ali 50 years ago.”

Eig spoke to all of Ali’s former wives and dug into government records to see how closely they monitored Ali and the Nation of Islam, which included them tapping his phone, to write the book. Smithsonian writes that more than anything, Eig “delves into the complexities of Ali’s relationships.” The boxer is known for having mistreated his wives. Eig said that when Malcolm X, Ali’s estranged friend, was assassinated, the boxer “showed no remorse,” according to Smithsonian. 

The goal of the book, Eig said, is to who Ali as truthfully as possible.

“And the truth is that he was insanely complicated and often contradictory. He was a heavyweight of contradictions,” said Eig, according to Smithsonian.