On June 20, 1967, boxing champion and Olympic gold medal winner Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was eventually successful.
When notified of A1 status, meaning he was eligible for the draft and induction into the U.S. Army, Ali, a Muslim, declared that he would refuse to serve based on his religious beliefs as well as his opposition to the Vietnam War.
Originally known as Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, subsequently converting to Sunni Islam in 1975, and more recently practicing Sufism.
Ali stated, “War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.” Ali also said: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”
Ali was vilified in the media for his anti-war stance that occurred well before mass anti-war protests began to take place. For years after he retired from boxing Ali continued to be the most famous athlete in the world. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984, most likely due to years of severe head trauma in the ring.