Ali in exile: Rarely seen photographs capture Muhammad Ali when he was banned from the ring after refusing to serve in Vietnam
He was born Cassius Clay, but we all know him by his chosen Islamic name – Muhammad Ali.
While there are many pictures of the legendary boxer in the ring, very few show him in the years he was banned from the sport for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War.
‘War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an,’ he said. ‘I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don’t take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.’
When he failed to enlist on April 28, 1967, he was not only arrested, but had his boxing license suspended and his title stripped.
Initially a Houston, Texas court found him guilty of violating Selective Service but the U.S. Supreme Court overruled that decision in 1971 and Ali was free to enter the ring again.
Ali never had to serve jail time, but he still wasn’t allowed to fight between 1967 and 1971.
Instead he spent those years at the height of the civil rights movement speaking at colleges and universities. He never regretted his decision to stand up for what he believed in.
‘I’m happy cause I’m free,’ he told Time magazine in 1968. ‘I’ve made a stand all black people are gonna have to make sooner or later – whether or not they can stand up to the master’.
The following photo set shows Ali during 1968, when the boxer was still banned from boxing but continuing to command the attention of Americans across the country.
Out of the ring, into the theater: Muhammad Ali poses outside New York’s Alvin Theater (now the Neil Simon Theatre) in October 1968. James Earl Jones was starring in The Great White Hope, a play about black boxer Jack Johnson