The Cleveland Restoration Society and the Cleveland Browns will unveil the Ali Summit Cleveland Civil Rights Trail marker—the seventh marker to be placed on the trail—this Thursday, May 25 at 4:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Browns Stadium, 100 Alfred Lerner Way.
On June 4, 1967, boxer Muhammad Ali sat among a group of 10 men at the Negro Industrial and Economic Union headquarters on Euclid Avenue and repeated to reporters his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War.
The 10 men who s stood alongside Ali were then-attorney Carl Stokes and professional and collegiate athletes—largely from the Cleveland Browns—who had failed to change his mind on his decision yet stood in by his solidarity.
The press meeting, now called the Ali Summit, was attended by Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and other professional athletes such as John Wooten, Curtis McClinton, Sidney Williams, Bobby Mitchell, Jim Shorter, Willie Davis, Walter Beach III, Lorenzo Ashley, Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
Two weeks later, an all-white jury found Ali guilty of draft evasion. He was released on bail pending an appeal, but had his passport confiscated and took a hiatus from boxing.
In 1971, the Supreme Court reversed Ali’s conviction.
The Ali Summit and Negro Industrial and Economic Union represented the submerging of civil rights activism, the anti-Vietnam war movement, and professional athletes’ involvement in national and local politics.
Members of the Union were embedded in Cleveland’s Black community, understood its struggles, and used their resources and status as celebrities to facilitate change. For these reasons, the summit, the Union, and the Cleveland Browns athletes who were involved have been chosen as a part of the Cleveland Civil Rights Trail.