You are here: / Education / Events / Sports / 53 Years ago on June 4, 1967 The Cleveland Summit and Muhammad Ali: The true story by Jonathan Eig

53 Years ago on June 4, 1967 The Cleveland Summit and Muhammad Ali: The true story by Jonathan Eig

Bill Russell and Kareen AbdulJabbar at the famous Cleveland Summit with Muhaammad Ali

The NBA is yet again leading the way in fighting for justice in their community. More specifically, NBA players are. The NBA league has a long history of players being leaders in thought and action when it comes to all sorts of important questions. One of the most famous ones happened on June 4, 1967, in Cleveland, Ohio. More precisely, in the offices of Brown’s Negro Industrial and Economic Union.

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, June 4, 1967. Some of the greatest black athletes in the country gathered in a nondescript office building in Cleveland.

According to legend — and countless media reports in subsequent years that failed to challenge that legend — the athletes had come together to decide whether to lend their support to Muhammad Ali, who had been stripped of his heavyweight title and faced charges of draft dodging for his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War.

Former Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown presides over a meeting of top African-American athletes on June 4, 1967, to show support for boxer Muhammad Ali’s refusal to fight in Vietnam. Those present are: (front row) Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Lew Alcindor; (back row) Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter, and John Wooten. Tony Tomsic/Getty Images

Ali needed support, that much is true. Ever since he’d changed his name from Cassius Clay, joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) and refused to join the military, he’d become one of the most reviled men in the nation, hated almost as much by black Americans as by white ones. So the fact that other black athletes would convene in support of Ali held significance. The men meeting in Cleveland that day — including Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor — were widely admired.

But as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Cleveland Summit, the time has come to scrape off the barnacles that adhere to this story. There were multiple interests at play in that room and differing conceptions of the best way to advance the position of blacks in America. Some of the men were ex-military. Others had economic stakes in the outcome. Go to link below:

PureHistory ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.