Since his tragic passing on Friday, Muhammad Ali's legacy has been trotted out for the world to see, and a lot of light has been shed on the many facets of The Greatest's soulful drive to make the world a more just place.The man partook in a breathtaking amount of activism. Well, now you can add to that his plight to help reform one of the world's more corrupt governing bodies: FIFA.
Today, the country of Jordan's Football Association revealed for the first time a heart-felt form letter that Ali sent to all the FAs last year, imploring them to vote conscientiously for a new FIFA president. The letter was dated May 15, 2015, which means that it was written prior to the election contested between Sepp Blatter—who still held office at the time, despite numerous corruptionscandal—and opposition frontrunner Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan.
While (Muhammad) Ali makes overt reference to his ties with the Hussein family at the beginning of the letter—and the whole thing feels like a not-so-subtle rebuke of Blatter—he avoids asking the letter's recipient to vote specifically for Hussein. Instead, Ali asks them to "vote for good. Vote for justice. Vote for a new beginning." And then he tells them a story.
For those of you who can't read the small text on the tweet above, Ali outlines the decision behind resisting the Vietnam draft in what feels almost like a form letter for motivating people to do anything—swap out advocating for conscientious FIFA voting for eating your vegetables, say. But Ali's life story felt particularly apropos for FIFA's circumstances. About how it was easy for International FAs stand by alongside Blatter's regime and be complicit with wrongdoing.
After talking about waiting to be called up for the draft, Ali paints his moral resolve:
"Then a curious thing happened to me as I waited for my name to be called. I looked at the young man who would call my name and I saw that he was more nervous than me. When I looked into his eyes, I realized he was just doing what he had been ordered to do and that everyone in the room was just doing what they had been ordered to do; whether or not they believed it was the right thing."
Ali lays down a sentiment delightfully reminiscent of David Foster Wallace's now-famous "This is Water" speech. He then adds,
"I refused to step forward…. Because if I didn't follow my true beliefs, I would never be free again. A simple action, with huge consequences that would affect my life forever."
It's sad to think that Ali would not be comforted to know that FIFA corruption seems to be (at least very plausibly) alive and well under new president Gianni Infantino. It sort of makes you wish that enough people had voted for Prince Hussein—or at least someone with half the moral resolve of Ali himself. Rest in Peace, the Greatest.