Muhammad Ali is an icon in the world of sport, as he is regarded as one of (if not the) greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. However, despite Rosa Parks not being an athlete, both Ali and Parks broke the law in order to highlight injustice.
Ali broke the law when he refused to be drafted into the army during the Vietnam War. It was apparent that he didn’t want to fight what he viewed as a white man’s war, as he was quoted as saying ‘no Vietcong ever called me nigger.’ As a result, his heavyweight championship title was taken away from him, and his license to box in the United States was revoked for three years. During the 1960s, Muhammad Ali was demonized by white America as unpatriotic. Along with this, Ali had previously changed his name from Cassius Clay and had converted to Islam from Christianity. Ali had defined himself with a distinct black identity.
Parks broke the law when, in 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. The incident provoked the famous bus boycott in Montgomery, which lasted for over a year. The African American community rallied behind Parks, and carpooled or cycled instead of taking the buses. African American taxi drivers even resorted to charging passengers only 10 cents, the same price of a bus fare, to help the cause.
Both Ali and Parks are also similar because, whilst they were both initially demonized for their actions, America soon adopted them as icons for positive change. Rosa Parks was arrested for her actions in Montgomery, but in 1956 segregated buses were deemed unconstitutional. What had been legal the year before was now seen as unjust, and Parks was the icon of this change. And Ali became a symbol as sentiment against US involvement in Vietnam gained momentum in the 1970s. Ali, who had initially described himself as a conscientious objector, was now an icon for the anti-war movement that Americans were starting to embrace. Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali, who had technically been criminals, were later established as American icons.