On the night on June 3, 2016, former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. There have already been many tributes penned to the fighter, but surprisingly, some of the most touching have come from politicians.
One especially touching tribute came from President Barack Obama, who hung a poster of Ali in his office during his first Senate campaign:
“Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d ‘handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail… His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.”
Bernie Sanders, Jesse Jackson and the Clintons have also expressed their condolences. Jackson described Ali as “a defiant man with dignity“, Sanders praised his courage and the Clinton’s called him “greater than his legacy“.
Perhaps the most controversial tribute came from Donald Trump, who had a complicated history with the fighter. While the two men had appeared together at events in the past, they were at odds politically. Before his passing, Ali was very critical of Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, issuing this statement in a press release:
“We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.
Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is. I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.”
Still, even Trump showed no hard feelings, proclaiming on his twitter that Ali was “a truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all.”