This Day in Cultural History: Ali Refused Induction Into U.S Army and Lost Boxing Title

On April 28th, 1967, boxer Muhammad Ali refused to serve his country based on religious grounds. By doing so, Ali lost his boxing title, and started one of the most controversial events in American history. The war at the time was Vietnam, possibly the most controversial war of all time. Ali was running the 1960s, winning an Olympic gold and upsetting Sonny Liston. But then when Ali was drafted into the military, all hell broke loose.

Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three years. Ali appealed the sentence. This took the case to The Supreme Court. The Justices at the time were mostly very old white men, besides Thurgood Marshall. Ironically, the Chief Justice was Warren E. BURGER. When the Supreme Court overturned the decision, it was a big surprise. Racism was alive and well in the 1960s and it had a huge role in this case. Overturning the decisions was huge for boxing but also America.

There was a lot of controversy about this decision. People were saying, “If an ordinary person refused to be inducted, he would be punished.” People were saying, “What kind of a man refuses to serve his country?” But, it is not as if the Supreme Court said, “This guy is black and famous, we can’t sentence him.” Ali had religious grounds that war was not a part of. So it was a very just overturning of a decision.

The Vietnam War is one of the worst events in American history. The veterans of that war are definitely heroes, but so is Muhammad Ali.

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