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'He never threw a brick:' Muhammad Ali's widow claims boxing legend would have warned crisis-hit America 'we have run out of time'

'He never threw a brick:' Muhammad Ali's widow claims boxing legend would have warned crisis-hit America 'we have run out of time'
Muhammad Ali would have been "heartbroken" by the "pandemic of racism" that has led to mass protests in the US, but would have called for immediate change and supported peaceful activists, his wife, Lonnie, has said.

Ali's wife of 30 years at the time of his death in 2016 has suggested that "many inquiries" are required over the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, who she named among "many others" as victims of racially-motivated police brutality following their recent deaths which have sparked protests across the US.

Pointing to Ali's own civil rights activism that dominated the headlines during the 1960s and 1970s, she said the "pandemic of racism" had plagued the country for 400 years while being swept under the carpet by many, leading to a "clear and present danger" for society.

"He would make clear in his own way that things have to change and they have to change now," she insisted.

"He would be heartbroken to know [that] equality and justice for all are words spoken or written about but still not a right extended to all Americans.

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"We have run out of time. He would demand transparency of investigations, accountability and swift justice for the victims.

"Too many are frustrated, exhausted and have been pushed to their breaking point. After all, we have not fully emerged from three months of wrath and devastation from a global pandemic that brought death and havoc to every community, especially the black and Latino communities."

Ali also cautioned against the violence that has exploded in many states and seen the motives of some protestors heavily questioned by politicians and the public, warning of the risk of people attempting to use "the cloak of righteous protests for their own selfish purposes" causing even greater problems.

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Today marks the fourth anniversary of Muhammad’s passing. The pain of losing him is still as fresh now and it was then. Knowing and feeling that pain makes me understand on a visceral level the pain that is being felt by the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and the many others whose loved ones died at the hands of those who are charged to “serve and protect” the citizens of their respective communities. I was fortunate in that my husband was able to lead a full life. His life was not cut short by a bullet or brute force. For those left to mourn the lives of those who were, I know their pain is amplified and hearts heavy with tears of despair and anguish: all of which begs the question, “Why?” The “Why?” could be the start of many inquires that demand answers for “the pandemic of racism” (a term used by Kentucky born George Clooney in a recent essay) that has plagued this country long before its inception. Something people of color have endured for 400 years and something many Americans have chosen to ignore or deny. Like it or not racism and injustice are alive and well and continues to be a cancer in our society and a clear and present danger to the promise of America for every American. The ugliness of its inhumanity has been laid bare on video tape for all of America and the world to see and not to deny. Too many are frustrated, exhausted and have been pushed to their breaking point. After all, we have not fully emerged from three months of wrath and devastation from a global pandemic, one that brought death and havoc to every community, especially the Black and Latino communities. As I’ve watched events unfold in real time over the past week, people have reached out to me with the same basic message, “If ever there were a time we needed Muhammad’s voice to be heard, it’s now”. Their search and plea for someone to bring calm and leadership to this crisis is palpable, as is the anguish. Over the past few days, I’ve given much thought to what Muhammad would say and do at this very moment. I’ll never pretend to be as wise as he was in these situations but I know some things to be certain. [Continued in comments; Photos by Neil Leifer]

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"He never threw a brick, he never defaced or set fire to a building or resorted to violence," she said.

"Muhammad’s protests were peaceful even though the federal government stripped him of his livelihood, threatened him with prison and fined him thousands of dollars.

"He would warn those who are peacefully protesting for real change to be smart, on guard and not allow their causes or protests be hijacked by others who might infiltrate and create violence and chaos where there is none."

The year before his death, the devout Muslim acknowledged he had "never been accused of political correctness" while calling on current US President Donald Trump to encourage greater understanding of Islam following a press release by the Republican in 2015 that suggested "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

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Trump later imposed highly contentious travel bans on people from several majority-Muslim countries to the US and confirmed his government was considering a pardon for the sporting icon over his refusal to report for US military duty in 1967, which would have seen him drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.

The president claimed the boxer was "not very popular" at the time of his refusal, and Ali has now urged the public to make their votes count at the presidential elections in November.

"[Muhammad] loved America in spite of its imperfections," she said. "

He would tell [people] to hold on to the frustration and anger they feel at this moment and carry that righteous protest to the ballot box."

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