The Silence of the Sheep
On June 6, 1967, Black athletes bearing significant cultural influence gathered at a meeting of the Negro Industrial and Economic Union to hear Muhammad Ali give his reasons for rejecting the United States military draft.
At the conclusion of Ali's remarks, all present publicly voiced their support for his decision and went on to join with other influential black and white public figures from the worlds of sports, the fine and performing arts, science, the law, and politics in a vigorous struggle -- ultimately successful, albeit at great cost -- to restore Ali's denied freedoms.
Two years later, Esquire magazine assembled an additional 102 courageous luminaries willing to stand publicly with Ali. A dozen confront us on the cover, in the ring and ready to fight. Pointing their fingers at us, they ask, as the Bible asks, "What are we prepared to do?"
Who stands -- and sits -- with Colin Kaepernick today? Who will risk life and livelihood in the name of freedom? Lithe bodies are frozen, sweet voices are muffled, deep visions are occluded, the brilliant have become simpletons, the just are indifferent, and leaders cower beneath the back bench of expediency.
Asked in 2014 if he thought the support garnered by Ali 47 years earlier could be mustered again, former Boston Patriots player Walter Beach III (pictured here with Ali and others) said, “There is not a high degree of consciousness by the black athletes — social or racial consciousness,” he said. “There’s a vacuum of leadership.”
They are not alone.
"If you are comfortable with my oppression, then you are my oppressor," said the great civil rights/labor/socialist leader A. Philip Randolph.
The irresistable rot common to all empires ... Bear witness to its spread by taking your head out of the suffocating mold of privilege and looking in the mirror.
1967 -- Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabar (then, Lew Alcindor); (back row) Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter, and John Wooten
1969 -- Richard Benjamin, Theodore Bikel, Truman Capote, Howard Cosell, Ernest Gruening, Michael Harrington, James Earl Jones, Roy Lichtenstein, Sydney Lumet, George Plimpton, Budd Schulberg, and Jose Torres