“Ain’t no Vietcong ever called me Nigger.” – Muhammad Ali, 1966.
In a frank letter to friend William Reinmuth in May of 1967, retired heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano weighs in on the debate surrounding fellow boxer Muhammad Ali‘s public refusal, in 1966, to serve in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War. The situation had further intensified when, at his official induction on April 28th of 1967, Ali’s repeated refusal to step forward following the calling of his name had resulted in his arrest and, later that day, the loss of both his boxing license and title. On June 20th of that year, he was found guilty of violating the Universal Military Training and Service Act; four years later that decision was reversed by the Supreme Court.
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of REA.
Rocky Marciano Enterprises, Inc.
May 16, 1967
William Reinmuth, Jr.
C/O Sports Quest
500 West 114 Street
New York, New York
You are right about the growing public disgust for Clay regarding his decision not to fought in the “white man’s army.” Yes, I did take offense at that and some of his other statements. I can tell you that Barbara and I have been getting swamped with calls from the press all over the world wanting to know what we thought about Clay’s situation.
I tell them what I’ve told you and everyone else up to now and that is I don’t support Clay’s decision to refuse induction. I understand that he is out Five thousand dollars bail and cannot get a passport to leave the country. I have heard that he will have plenty of grief if he tries to get licensed to fight in the states as well.
I spoke with Joe Louis again the other day and he told me that he reminded Clay that he wound up as better and prouder American as a result of his hitch in the Army. He said that Clay just went on about not being treated equal in his own country and that he wouldn’t take part in killing on foreign soil and that he would fight on this soil so that his people would be recognized as equals here.
Sounds to me like he has been talking with his lawyers a hell of a lot, doesn’t it? Will be in touch. Take care and “Keep Punching!”
(Signed, ‘Rocky Marciano’)