So Jim Brown led a group of prominent black athletes who hit Ali with a flurry of questions during a two-hour meeting in Cleveland in June 1967. Ali didn’t duck the questions and stuck to his principles, citing his religious beliefs in refusing to join the military.
The dozen athletes, including Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, emerged from the meeting to publicly support Ali at a time when the champ was one of the country’s most polarizing figures.
"People got the answers that they wanted," Brown recalled Saturday.
Nearly 50 years after the meeting, now known as the “Ali Summit,” several participants including Brown and Russell were at Ali’s side again Saturday night in the boxing champ’s hometown. Brown received a lifetime humanitarian achievement award bearing Ali’s name.
While posing for photos with the 72-year-old Ali, Brown leaned over and whispered to the seated former heavyweight champion. Later, Brown said he told Ali: “You’re the greatest of all time.” [X]