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Athletes in Action: reading informational text; Muhammad Ali 5


Read the passage, then answer the practice question.

Muhammad Ali: Agent for Social Change

  1. “I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale, handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick.” —Muhammad Ali
  2. Muhammad Ali was an all-time great boxer and entertainer. He was a three-time world heavyweight champion, an Olympic gold medallist, and as masterful approaching a microphone as he was in the ring. Later in life, he was made a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  3. He’s widely celebrated today, but that wasn’t always true during his boxing career. Ali was a confident, capable, Black Muslim athlete who was unafraid to speak his mind and stand up for his ideals. That made him very unpopular with a lot of people in 1960s America.
  4. Ali once said, “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black; confident; cocky; my name, not yours. My religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”
  5. Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, he changed his name when he became a Muslim. He explained that “Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn't choose it and I don't want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name—it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me and of me.”
  6. In 1966, Ali was at the height of his success as a boxer. At the same time, the US was fighting a war in Vietnam. The government was drafting young men to fight, which meant they had to join the Armed Forces when called. Refusing without an officially allowed reason was illegal. Ali was drafted, but refused anyway. He said he wouldn’t fight in Vietnam because it was against his religion and because Black people in America were still "treated like dogs and denied simple human rights”.
  7. Most Americans supported the Vietnam war at that time, and some thought Ali was a traitor. TV host David Susskind called him “a disgrace to his country, his race, and what he laughingly describes as his profession”. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title, disqualified from fighting, and given a $10,000 fine and a prison sentence. But to many, he was a hero. Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton said, “he knew he was going to jail and did it anyway. That's another level of leadership and sacrifice”.
  8. By resisting injustice and inequality, and by never apologizing for who he was, Muhammad Ali inspired countless people—especially Black Americans and athletes. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said, “Ali's impact on young people was very formidable . . . The fact that he was proud to be a Black man, and that he had so much talent . . . made certain people love him and made other people think that he was dangerous. But, for those very reasons, that's why I enjoyed him.”
  9. Ali returned to boxing in 1971 and won back his heavyweight title in 1974. After retiring in 1981, he invested much of his time into supporting different causes. In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and raised money for research into the disease. He traveled the world bringing food and medicine to poor countries. He also contributed his energies to many different charities, including the Special Olympics, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
  10. Throughout his life, Ali set the standard for being true to yourself and fighting for what you believe is right. Or, in his own words, “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”

Practice question

Which TWO details from the passage best support the main idea that Muhammad Ali spoke out against injustices and inequalities?
Choose 2 answers: