The United States vs. Muhammad Ali

On June 28, 1971, the United States Supreme Court reversed Muhammad Ali’s federal criminal conviction for refusing to enter the military. Most Americans are aware that world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to enter the U.S. Armed Forces and that his conviction for refusing to do so eventually was overturned. However, what is less known are the factual and legal intricacies of his draft status, draft evasion conviction, and appeals.

Ali’s moral, religious, and political position cost him a three and a half year absence from the boxing ring during his prime years. His conviction was overturned due to the Appeal Board denying Ali’s conscientious objector claim without specifically identifying the reason for the denial. Therefore, the Supreme Court did not know which reasons were relied upon by the Appeal Board as its grounds for the denial of the claim.

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