Check out this photo from the “Ali Summit” a gathering of black athletes in Cleveland from 45 years ago. Recognize any sports legends?
Pictured are athletes including Jim Brown, Mohammad Ali, Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) , and Bill Russell. They all met to discuss with Ali his reasons for refusing draft orders during the Vietnam war and after that discussion to support him. The full details can be found at the Cleveland Plain Dealer site.
I had not heard of this summit before reading about it today, and what struck me was how unlikely such a summit would be today. Would there ever be a meeting of the top black athletes in many sports to discussion one black athlete’s conscientious decision? What would possibly could be the circumstance? Imagine, for example, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis, Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton, and Floyd Mayweather coming together, meeting, and issuing a press release supporting a fellow athlete who is deliberately refusing obey the U.S. government. Taking race out of the equation, imagine any group of athletes coming together in this way, not to support a charity, but to support another athlete’s personal, moral stance against the US government?
It is hard to imagine this kind of event taking place today. It may have been a unique product of the late 1960s.