Where Muhammad Ali's public persona came from

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Ali was a fine boxer, but can we dispense with the hagiography? He was a racist asshole to Joe Frazier, treated his wives and kids like shit, and kissed Elijah Muhammad’s ass (turning his back on Malcolm X).

All humans are complex, flawed creatures. It does us all no good to whitewash reality.


I do not think that word, “racist,” means what you think it means.


It came from shield.

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Eh, pretty sure calling a black man “gorilla” and “Uncle Tom” is hella racist.

Not sure one black man calling another an “Uncle Tom” is racist. “Gorilla” maybe.


Nope, it isn’t.

It might be bigoted, and in the case of resorting to making any simian comparison to another Black man, possibly an expression of self hatred.

But context matters, as Ali generally said whatever was most likely to piss his opponents off; it was a psychological ploy to get in their heads and rattle their focus.


Well, obviously, but I have a hard time thinking of Ali as racist, considering he spent his post-boxing years doing relief work in Africa, and remained a lifelong friend of Howard Cosell, a.k.a. Howard Cohen the son of a rabbi.


Even the “gorilla” part wasn’t necessarily a race-based insult given the time and context. “Gorilla” used to be a common slang term for “big dumb thug/meathead.” It would certainly be out of character for Ali to put down another man just for being black.


“Dispense with the hagiography” the day after his death? Unlikely, don’t you think?


Anybody who actually looks at the lives of the saints and prophets will quickly see that they were deeply flawed characters. Ali refused to play the part of the deferential black man allowed to be successful in a job which didn’t threaten white supremacy, at great personal cost. He preached equality. That’s why he’s famous, and deservedly so.


Sure, why not, it’s not like he was David Bowie or something.


Maybe, and if so, later. In the meantime, can you find another punch bowl to piss in?


Permit some of us to celebrate Ali the champ, Ali the showman, Ali the individual, and Ali the man of peace. If you’d rather remember him as a racist asshole, feel free to, but I’d rather not have the Westboro Baptists in respectful remembrance comment threads.


TIL that my comment is the equivalent of stating “God Hates Fags.” Such lovely discourse.

I did not say that. You did. You just created your own discourse. Congrats!

The Westboro Baptists are well known for picketing funerals and hurling insults at the recently dead. Like you, their purpose seems to be “you should feel bad about honoring this person”.


Oh, come on. Muhammad Ali had fallen from the public eye decades ago, and the only reason anyone gives a shit about him now is because he died. Something feels gross about all the chest-beating and fulsome praise people do when a forgotten celeb dies nowadays.

Ali was a great athlete and brilliant when it came to mind games. If we’d had this discussion a month ago (or I’m guessing a month from now), though, it’d be a discussion about his racism, homophobia, misogyny, and womanizing.

That is worded so weirdly. It sounds like you disagree, and then right after that you vehemently agree.

I’ve got to remember this for when Bill Cosby finally kicks the bucket. I’m bookmarking this comment.

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My meaning is this: If someone wishes to remember Muhammad Ali as a horrible human being, that is their right. They can do so all they wish. But proclaiming that he’s a horrible human being not worth remembering is fucking rude as shit when done in a comment thread remembering his outsize persona, his personal principals, and where he learned his media chops from, two days after he died.

Feel free to.

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Muhammad Ali Makes A Special Appearance At The Opening Ceremony - London 2012 Olympics


Ooh, that totally, 100% disproves what I said. Kudos to you.


I want to get this right, though; I’m not really defending turning this into a poo-slinging fest about the terrible things he did, just taking a moment to make comments about the weird and imho gross trend of acting like people like Muhammad Ali meant a lot to all of us, right after they die, when clearly he didn’t.

I’m glad to see the man get some attention for the good things he did, and don’t intend any disrespect. I think it’s also good to keep in mind that, like all of us, he was also a flawed man. A human being, if you will. If we can also refrain from doing the thing I brought up above–which is to start slinging poo about the bad stuff he did, about a month from now when we’ll all quite frankly be sick of all the Ali veneration–that’d be great, too.

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