What does Muhammad Ali tell us about the nature of modern fame? | Sonia Sodha

The boxer was a catalyst for social change. Unlike today’s celebrities with their selfies and perfume lines

A eulogy from a former president; thousands of people lining the streets of Louisville; international leaders flying in for the funeral; Will Smith and Lennox Lewis among the pallbearers. The scale of Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday makes it easy to forget he wasn’t always universally adored. The long arc of his celebrity spans more than 50 years and includes periods when he was a pariah in white, mainstream America.

Ali embraced his celebrity but it seemed to compel him towards, rather than away from, saying things that challenged the social norms of the time. He used his platform to champion civil rights even where it earned him notoriety, and his refusal of the draft in 1967 cost him his world title and earned a three-year boxing ban. He also associated with controversial black supremacist movements and ideas that he later renounced.

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