This past week, Muhammad Ali lost his long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease*, but the memory of Ali is still very much in the minds of our politicians. On May 26, Rep. Mullin (R-OK), a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, introduced H.R. 5365, the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act. The proposed amendment expands the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000, so that it applies to all combat sports. This past Tuesday, “Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), introduced a measure to recognize the “extraordinary life, accomplishments, and countless contributions” of Ali.
In his lifetime, Ali, a Muslim who changed his name from Cassius Clay when he converted to the Islam religion, was both an athlete and a political activist. In addition to his well-known objections to war, he was a fierce advocate for civil rights. (In remembrance of Ali, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky plans to introduce the “Muhammad Ali Voluntary Service Act,” to replace the Selective Service, which Sen. Paul states, “… has a racial justice disparity.”) In the years after his diagnosis, he became a fierce advocate and active fundraiser for Parkinson’s research, particularly for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix’s Barrow Neurological Institute .
Ali, who in 2005 received the Medal of Freedom from then President George W. Bush, would have liked the proposed legislations. Unfortunately, we no longer have him here to advocate for them.
*For the last 32 years of his life, Ali had the neurological disease, Parkinson’s. According to a Harvard Medical School neurologically professor, who met with Ali, “People who lose consciousness through head trauma are at 50% higher risk of Parkinson’s.” Severe, ongoing head trauma, which is a consequence of heavyweight professional boxing, can cause the development of ‘Parkinson’s proteins’ or further the development of existing, inactive ‘Parkinson’s proteins’.
(June 10, 2016, Ali was laid to rest, at a funeral in his hometown of Louisville, KY.)