MAY 1, 2014
In the capital of the old Confederacy, Richmond, Va., on a boulevard of elegantly aged homes and muscle-limbed trees, stands a string of large statues honoring a nation that enshrined human bondage in its founding document. Generals and politicians, these heroes of the Civil War South are well known.
At one end of Monument Avenue is a more recent addition — the statue of the tennis great Arthur Ashe. It is no small irony that Ashe would be property, with fewer rights than a horse, were he to live in his hometown under Article One of the Confederate Constitution. The South, its rebel founders made clear in 1861, would forever be a slaveholders’ republic. “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed,” it states.
It’s a tribute to Richmond, in the face of much contention, that an African-American athlete is on the same street as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. But it’s also a tribute to sports, and shows — as the swift censure of a racist billionaire basketball owner does — that if you want to find racial progress in America, look to the games we play. ...
Muhammad Ali, with a mouth as quick as his jab, forced a conversation about pride and prejudice that went far beyond the boxing ring.
Here is video of the sainted Muhammad Ali holding a conversation about pride and prejudice and how Joe Frazier is a gorilla:
And football’s Richard Sherman, of the Seattle Seahawks, had his Ali moment last season, flushing out people who use “thug” as a code word for something more derisive, as the Stanford graduate noted.