The champ is here! But are we ashamed of Muhammad Ali?

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Andy Warhol's portrait of boxing great Muhammad Ali

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It was with mounting annoyance that I read a Fox Sports article about Muhammad Ali and his “sickening appearance” at a Marlins game the other day.

Fox Sports journalist Robert Craddock described the scene as “quite sickening”.

“The Kentucky-born superstar with the lightning-fast hands – and even faster tongue – is barely a shell of his former self,” read a News Limited commentary.

Ali’s appearance at a Marlin’s game involved him being driven around the ground in a golf cart, with his hands shaking from Parkinson’s disease, and meeting some of the players.

Why am I annoyed? Because the tone and text of the article suggested that Ali should stay out of the public eye and stop making any more public appearances because his condition makes people uncomfortable.

Excuse me?

That Ali has Parkinson’s is no secret. Indeed, he and Michael J. Fox are the most famous sufferers in the world.

That Parkinson’s causes uncontrollable tremors is again no surprise, thanks in a large part to the work that Ali and Fox have done to publicise and promote research into the disease.

I can remember watching Ali lighting the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

That was 16 years ago. His hands were shaking then.

If anything, Ali’s appearance on the weekend demonstrates that the disease has not beaten him, that his formidable will power and strength have not left him.

These are positive things.

There is also a sense of a reality about it.

Ali’s Parkinsons is suggested to be linked to the blows to his head he suffered as a boxer. It is a very real consequence. Why should that be hidden away?

I think Craddock’s comments are first and foremost an insult to anyone with a disability. As if they should be hidden away lest their disability makes us uncomfortable?

Secondly – does this rule apply to all sufferers of Parkinsons, or simply to those who were big and strong in our memory? We don’t want to deal with the reality of their mortality, do we?

That commentators on Fox Sports are not astute should not come as much of a surprise. What does come as a surprise is that they would disrespect the champ and all sufferers of Parkinson’s disease like that.