Muhammad Ali

Ali's Vietnam Legacy

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"In Focus: Athlete of the Century: Century Selection Strikes Discord." USA Today, December 17, 1999, p. 3C.

At the end of the 20th Century, USA Today named Muhammad Ali "Athlete of the Century." Reader response to his choice was, to say the least, less than enthusiastic. Said USA Today, "From the military to sports fanatics, the majority of readers liked anyone but Ali." Many still remembered Ali's struggle with the draft during the Vietnam War and condemned him for it. Others wrote in to show their support for Vietnam War supporter, Jackie Robinson instead.

Several letters tore into both Ali and USA Today's choice of him as "Athlete of the Century." Said Randolph Meisei, U.S. Marine Corps Ret. of Fayetteville, Tennessee, "A hero is defined as a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. I can think of many people fitting this description, and Cassius Clay is certainly not one of them." He went on to say, "I am deeply offended, and my only hope for publication of this letter is so that I can apologize on your behalf to all the brave men and women who are serving and have served in the Armed Forces for your gross error in judgment."

Tom Eddy of Peru, Indiana wrote, "Words cannot adequately describe my displeasure over your selection of the draft dodger, Cassius Clay. Your selection is pandering at its finest... As this century comes to an end, we find one draft dodger being selected Athlete of the Century and another occupying the White House. How Sad!"

Don Callahan of Moro, Illinois stated, "I am appalled that USA Today can be so insensitive to our own country and the freedoms we have."

It is interesting to note that several readers still referred to Ali as Cassius Clay, Ali's pre-Nation of Islam name.

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