LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Muhammad Ali was on the ropes for refusing induction into the Army, and Jim Brown wanted to help. But first, the NFL great wanted to hear the boxing champion’s reasons for not answering the call to military service.
So Brown led a group of black athletes who hit Ali with a flurry of questions during a 1967 meeting in Cleveland. Ali didn’t duck the questions, citing his religious beliefs in refusing to join the military.
The athletes, including Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, emerged from the meeting to publicly support Ali at a time when the champ was a polarizing figure.
Nearly 50 years later, Brown and Russell will be at Ali’s side again Saturday night in the boxing champ’s hometown. Brown is receiving a lifetime humanitarian achievement award bearing Ali’s name.
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