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Justin Harrison Levin




Presented to the Faculty of the
Department of History of the University of Pennsylvania
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Bachelor of Arts with Honors


Kathy Peiss, Honors Seminar Director

Amy C. Offner, Thesis Advisor

Thomas M. Safley
Undergraduate Chair, Department of History

To Brian and Jonny, for instilling a love of politics and sports in me


Athletesare among the best-cared-for creatures in the history of the planet,
beneficiaries of the best nutrition, the latest technologies, the finest medical care, they
live at the very pinnacle of American innovation and abundance, which inspires an
extraordinary thought send them to fight the war! Send them just as they are this
moment, well rested, suited up, psyched for brutal combat, send the entire NFL! Attack
with all our bears and raiders, our ferocious redskins, our jets, eagles, falcons, chiefs,
patriots, cowboys how could a bunch of skinny hajjis in man-skirts and sandals stand a
chance against these all-Americans? Resistance is futile, oh Arab foes. Surrender now
and save yourself a world of hurt, for our mighty football players cannot be stopped, they
are so huge, so strong, so fearsomely ripped that mere bombs and bullets bounce off their
bones of steel. Submit, lest our awesome NFL show you straight to the flaming gates of

But why, please, do they play the national anthem before games anyway? The Dallas
Cowboys and the Chicago Bears, these are two privately owned corporations, these their
contractual employees taking the field. As well play the national anthem at the top of
every commercial, before every board meeting, with every deposit and withdrawal you
make at the bank!

United States Army Private Billy Lynn

I am grateful for my family, particularly my mother, for encouraging me to write
this thesis in the first place. Throughout elementary and middle school, she would
continually tell me, In our house, extra-credit isnt optional, its required. When I asked
for advice regarding taking on a potentially masochistic, optional, honors thesis, she
simply repeated her oft-heard refrain. I would also like to thank my girlfriend Whitney,
who was there for me to bounce ideas off of, came up with my title, and was instrumental
in helping me form my research questions.
I am indebted to Brian Richards, Museum Curator for the New York Yankees, for
teaching me that sports and history are not mutually exclusive. Gaining research
experience while interning for the Yankees was essential as I embarked upon this thesis.
Learning about Micky Mantle, how he was constantly booed and criticized for being draft
ineligible, was this projects inspiration.
I could not have written this thesis without the support and guidance of my
Faculty Advisor, Dr. Amy Offner, and the Honors Director, Dr. Kathy Peiss. I am
thankful to Professor Offner, for her willingness to take on my project before she had
even began working at Penn. Though I proudly hold the distinction as Professor Offners
inaugural advisee, throughout the entire process she advised me as if she were a seasoned
veteran. I greatly appreciate the close reading and useful annotations on multiple drafts of
my thesis. Professor Peiss challenged me from our first class meeting in January 2013. I
entered the seminar with a general proposal, and due to Professor Peiss much-needed
input, I ended with a solid research plan. Professor Peiss has also been an incredibly
perceptive and thoughtful second reader.
Lastly, I would like to thank the Penn Department of History for its generosity
with regard to research funding. Without it, my thesis would have lacked critical
information related to the USO, which I discovered while researching at the National

Table of Contents




Table of Contents.v

Glossary of Acronymsvi


Chapter 1..6
The American War Game

Chapter 223
Where Soldiers and Veterans Are, Baseball Will Be

Chapter 340
Man I Aint Got No Quarrel With Them Vietcong


Works Cited...63


Glossary of Acronyms

AFL American Football League
IAC Illinois Athletic Commission
MLB Major League Baseball
NFL National Football League
NOI Nation of Islam
NYSAC New York State Athletic Commission
SDS Students for a Democratic Society
SNCC Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
USO United Service Organizations
WBA World Boxing Association
WBC World Boxing Council
On January 14
, 1968, a crowd of 75,000 applauded as the Grambling State
University band performed the national anthem.
United States Air Force planes flew
overhead. Spectators cheered as Vince Lombardi, a former employee of West Point, led
his uniformed men onto the field. This nationalistic pep-rally, staged at the height of the
Vietnam War, was not a government event, but Super Bowl II. At a time when 20,000
U.S. troops had already died in Vietnam, the professional football leagues supported the
war effort and used the Super Bowl to express unconditional patriotism, nationalism, and
That 54% of the country opposed the war in January 1968 was irrelevant; 50
million fans were nevertheless subjected to a heavy helping of patriotic hoo-ha.

While professional sports are rarely thought of as an aspect of domestic war
mobilization, during the Vietnam era, sporting institutions had clear and directed pro-war
agendas. Professional football, baseball, and boxing, the three most popular professional
sports of the era, acted independently and without explicit direction from any federal
authority. Football and baseball engaged in gratuitous expressions of jingoism and all
three sports strove to silence political dissent.
During the Vietnam War, domestic mobilization was considerably more limited
than it had been in earlier periods. The government did not ask civilians to collect
aluminum, volunteer for the Red Cross, or ration food items as it had done during World
War II. Rather, President Lyndon Johnson implored the sincere and patriotic Americans

Mal Florence, Packers Win (Naturally) but Not by Landside, Los Angeles Times, January 15, 1968, B1.
Statistical Information about Fatal Causalities of the Vietnam War, National Archives, accessed August
2013, The NFL-AFL
merger was complete at this time so there were two separate leagues.
Public Opinion and the Vietnam War, Digital History, accessed August 1, 2013,, and David Zirin,
Whats My Name, Fool?:Sports and Resistance in the United States, (Chicago: Haymarket Books), 150.
who harbor doubts about sustaining the war in Vietnam to remember their true
American valuesfreedom, self-determination, and political independenceand rethink
their stance on the war.
Fundamentally, to the Johnson Administration, the Vietnam War
was necessary because the rise of communism in the Third World threatened the sanctity
of American values. Accordingly, reminding Americans of these values was central to the
effort to mobilize the country in support of the war. Sporting institutions answered
Johnsons call, using their status as highly respected and heavily publicized organizations
to mobilize the American public.
This analysis is at the intersection of two distinct historiographies: the
historiography of sport and the historiography of the Vietnam War. The study of sports as
it relates to politics, war, and social change is a young field, dating to the late 1970s and
early 1980s. Conversely, while the literature on the Vietnam War and domestic politics is
well developed, the clear intersection between sports and the war has received no
attention from historians.
The literature on sports and society began with works by Allen Guttmann and
Benjamin Rader, published in 1978 and 1983 respectively.
Both works argued that the
growth of modern sports reflected the pursuit of excellence in industrialized society.
Guttmann, for example, argued that equal opportunity to compete, specialization of roles,
rationalization, and bureaucratic organization, all tenets of industrialization, similarly
became tenets of modern American sport. As they solely focus on the impact
industrialization had on sports, these early works are only tangentially related to my

Speech on Vietnam (September 29, 1967)- Lyndon Baines Johnson, Miller Center, accessed November
Allen Guttmann, From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sport (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1978), and Benjamin G. Rader, American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of
Televised Sports (New Jersey: Simon and Schuster, 1983).
study. However, as these works were the first to treat sports organizations as institutions,
rather than as a collection of diverse individuals, they created the model that I employ
when examining professional football, baseball, and boxing. Building on these early
analyses, more recent works have focused on how the behavior of athletes themselves
related to social developments. In works published in the early 2000s, David Zang and
David Zirin both argue that though professional sports have historically been a source of
conservatism, athletes themselves have contested conservative values.
While this
resistance itself is of some interest to me, the way sports organizations responded to
resistance is most critical to my identification of the leagues institutional agendas during
the Vietnam era.
While literature regarding professional football and boxing during the Vietnam
War is non-existent, political scientist Robert Elias has addressed the intersection
between baseball and war.
In his 2009 work, Elias argued that throughout American
history, organized baseball has supported United States foreign policy. While the
Vietnam chapter in this work has informed my analysis of professional baseball, the
implications of our examinations are entirely different. Ellis examined baseballs history
from the American Revolution through the War on Terror, suggesting that there has been
un unchanging pattern of support for U.S. foreign policy. By contrast, I show how
leagues activities changed during the Vietnam era. Regarding football, even potentially
supplemental works such as Jeff Davis landmark biography of National Football League
commissioner Pete Rozelle surprisingly do not consider the Vietnam War at all.

David Zirin, Whats My Name, Fool?:Sports and Resistance in the United States (Chicago: Haymarket
Books, 2005), David Zang, Sports Wars: Athletes in the Age of Aquarius (Fayetteville: University of
Arkansas Press, 2001).
Robert Elias, The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S Foreign Policy And Promoted the
American Way Abroad (New York: The New Press, 2010), 198.
Concerning boxing, while the literature on Muhammad Ali is developed, it is surprisingly
silent on the boxing establishments policies and behavior.
The historiography of the Vietnam Wars impact on American society has failed
to address professional sports. While this historiography examines the development of
social movements and the effects on the American working class, it has consistently
neglected to examine the role of sports leagues. Works by Robert Buzzanco and Christian
Appy are representative of this literature and its faults with regard to professional sports.
Buzzanco considers the home front in its entirety and was incredibly useful for me as it
provided a general historical narrative from which I contextualized my sports-related
Yet Buzzancos work is silent on the role of professional sports in mobilizing
the nation. Additionally, though it did not directly impact my analysis, Christian Appys
oral history of the Vietnam War, which examined the conflict from the testimonies of
more than 100 individuals, informed me on how decisive and contested the war was.
gave me a true and much needed appreciation for the exceptionality of the war in
Vietnam. Despite the plethora of testimonials, Appy did not consider the perspective of
key professional sports organizations or personalities.
Chapter 1 explores the culture of martial masculinity shared by the military and
professional football. It argues that the violent culture of the game helps explain the
league officials identification with the war effort. Organized football supported the
Vietnam War through the Super Bowl, nationalistic policies, collaborations with the
Department of Defense, and the empowerment of hawkish individuals. Additionally, the

Robert Buzzanco, Vietnam and The Transformation of American Life (Malden, MA: Blackwell
Publishers, 1999)..
Christian G Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides (New York: Penguin Books,

football establishment worked to silence dissent within the sport and present the game as
unequivocally behind the war. Unlike football, the game of baseball was not inherently
warlike. Nevertheless, because of professional footballs surging popularity, the baseball
establishment chose to move the sport behind the war in an effort to replicate the NFLs
recent success. As Chapter 2 explores, the leagues selected a former General to become
commissioner, worked with the United Service Organizations, criticized the antiwar
movement, and strove to hide dissent. Finally, Chapter 3 argues that the boxing
establishment exhibited its support for the war by silencing dissent. Boxings jingoism
was exemplified by Muhammad Alis punitive treatment and banishment from the ring.
Former Monday Night Football commentator and renowned sports journalist,
Howard Cosell, once said, rule number one of jockocracy was that sports and politics
could never mix.
If this is in fact the first rule of jockocracy, it has been honored in
the breach: professional sports has mixed with politics, and society as a whole for that
matter, since the beginning of professional play in the United States. Historically, this
link has been particularly evident during wartime, where sporting events have been
outlets for nationalistic and patriotic expression. During the Vietnam War, professional
sports leagues acted as vehicles of domestic mobilization in the face of mounting
opposition to the war.

David Zirin, A Peoples History of Sports in the United States (New York: The New Press, 2008), xi.

Chapter 1The American War Game

In 1965, beloved Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas deemed football the
closest thing you can get to all-out war.
Though Unitas was one of the games All-
American heroes, the idea that football and war were related was not novel and was
enunciated by many of footballs prominent critics. In the October 1965 cover story for
Esquire Magazine, journalist Thomas Morgan wrote a chilling piece on football titled
The American War Game.
In discussing the connection between football and war,
Morgan argued that footballs metaphoric relationship to war goes beyond strategic
analogies and deathly symbolism to the game itselfFootball is a game played on
abasis that not only sanctions violence but requires it on every play. It ispseudo
In Morgans analysis, the violence of the game made football a continuation of
war by other means.
As football was a continuation of war by other means, then war
can equally be considered a continuation of football by other means. The resonance
between football and war inspired the NFLs pro-war policies and agendas during the
Vietnam Era and explains how football became integrated into this widening American
While football could be characterized as the American War Game throughout
the sports history, several factors gave this status added meaning during the war in
Due to football being a symbol forfighting itself, during Americas earlier
wars, the game was severally weakened by the war effort.
During World War I and II,

Thomas B, Morgan, The American War Game, Esquire Magazine, October 1965, 71.
Morgan, War Game, 72.
Morgan, War Game, 148.
Morgan, War Game, 71.
collegiate football, which was far more popular than professional football, suffered as
most able-bodied players enlisted or were drafted. Indicative of college footballs decline,
the service teams that sprung up in boot camps as soldiers were preparing for deployment
constantly dominated collegiate teams in exhibition matches. Interestingly, professional
football was not popular because collegiate football was used as a training ground for
soldiers and officers, not as a training ground for the NFL.
Regarding the professional
game, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, since the founding of the National
Football League in 1920, the league and its players have answered Americas call during
times of national crisis and military conflicts.
While the war effort did not cripple the
NFL, rival leagues folded during World War II and the NFL was profoundly affected. For
example, due to the manpower shortage created by World War II in 1943, the
Philadelphia [Eagles] and Pittsburgh [Steelers] franchises combined. The team was
calledthe Steagles.

Conversely, the sport was at its peak popularity during the Vietnam era.
Additionally, while organized football was divided into the upstart American Football
League and the established NFL at the beginning of the decade, in 1967 they merged to
create one powerful league. As the leader of this consolidated football establishment, Pete
Rozelle, who himself served in the Navy during World War II, ensured that the league
supported the Vietnam War and silenced internal dissent.

Michael Oriard, Flag Football: How the NFL became the American War Game, Slate, November 17,
2009, accessed August 2013,
Football and America, Pro Football Hall of Fame, accessed August 2013,
Eagles, Pro Football Hall of Fame, accessed January 2014,
Professional football culture, which pervaded American society, normalized
violence and translated the brutal experience of war into entertainment. When comparing
baseball to football, Robert Elias asserted that unlike the national pastime, by the 1970s
fewcould refute claims that football and aggression in Southeast Asia were linked.

Commenting on the militaristic aspects of the game, St. Louis Cardinals Linebacker and
Vietnam dissenter Dave Meggyesy wrote:
There was the whole militaristic aura surrounding pro football, not only in
the obvious things like football stars visiting troops in Vietnam, but in the
language of the game--throwing the bomb, being a field general, etc.,
and in the unthinking obligation to duty required of the players. It is no
accident thatthe most repressive political regime in the history of this
nation is ruled by a football-freak, Richard M. Nixon.

In this powerful condemnation of football, Meggyesy draws attention to the implicit
aspects of the game that undoubtedly relate to war in the abstract but during this era were
directly associated with Vietnam. Like Meggyesy, counterculture movements understood
the relationship between football and warmongering. Meggyesy proclaimed, when
society changesfootball will be obsolete.
Similarly, a feeling that, we wont have
more war if we dont have those kind of games, was common within the antiwar
As historian Robert Buzzanco asserted, during that decade, the foundations
of American life were challenged and often rocked to their core, and football did not
escape this attack.
However, football was especially dangerous because in addition to
being representative of traditional American culture, the nature of the game desensitized

Robert Elias, The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S Foreign Policy And Promoted the
American Way Abroad (New York: The New Press, 2010), 203.
Dave Meggyesy, Out of Their League (San Francisco: Ramparts Press, 2010), 174.
Meggyesy, Out of Their League, 253.
Statement by unnamed Vietnam protestor to Dave Meggyesy, interview by Dick Cavett, The Dick Cavett
Show, ABC, August 3, 1970.
Robert Buzzanco, Vietnam and The Transformation of American Life (Malden, MA: Blackwell
Publishers, 1999) 234.
the American public to the ills of war. Thus, from the perspective of the antiwar
movement, the game itself was responsible for helping to make an unjust war possible in
the United States.
Despite the frequent attacks by counterculture movements, it is initially unclear if
football actually made the nation more receptive to the war in Vietnam. Polling data
indicates that the nation was never overwhelmingly in support of the war, thus seemingly
absolving football of any blame. Indeed from May 1967 onward, more than 50% of the
country opposed the war.
However, when examining the pollsters techniques,
footballs role becomes much more apparent. Gallup, the pollster, measured support for
the war in an indirect manner, and asked Americans, in view of developments since we
entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to
fight in Vietnam?"
If a respondent answered yesthe U.S. made a mistake sending
troops to fight in Vietnam this was considered as a response against the war. However,
this polling was flawed because it did not consider the existence of individuals who
believed that the initial intervention was a mistake but held that the war must go on until
a decisive American victory. While this distinction may seem minimal, its importance is
evident when considering the emphasis on winning within the collective American
psyche. In his 1969 book titled The Jocks, sportswriter Leonard Schecter observed
American society and noted, we play our games, or watch them contested, with the same
tenacious ferocity with which we fight a war in Vietnam and with little reason or sense.
We are taught from the cradle that we have never lost a war and that winning is

Public Opinion and the Vietnam War, Digital History, accessed August 1, 2013,
everythingand losing is nothing.
In particular, football, where legendary coach, Vince
Lombardi, promoted the dictum, winning isnt everything, its the only thing, was
responsible for fostering this mindset.
Thus, according to Schecters analysis, while
there were many Americans who would readily admit that the war in Vietnam was a
mistake, football had conditioned the American public to believe thatmistake or not
anything less than complete victory in Vietnam was unacceptable. Indeed, when applying
Schecters theory to Nixons 1968 campaign guarantee of ending the war in Vietnam, it is
clear why the presidential hopeful did not promise to immediately withdraw the troops
but rather pledged that, we shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.

In creating the Super Bowl in 1967, Rozelle and the football establishment had
the opportunity to display their values on the grandest stage.
Rozelle admitted that from
Super Bowl I onward, there was a conscious effort on our part to bring the element of
patriotism into the Super Bowl.
These efforts were successful and according to
Meggyesy, there was this jingoistic, super patriotic, use of football, particularly during
the Super Bowl to sell the war in Vietnam.
Indeed, according to the Department of
Defense, The NFL-military Super Bowl partnership stems from the first Air Force
flyover in 1968, over Miamis Orange Bowl for Super Bowl II.
Additionally, during

David Zirin, A Peoples History of Sports in the United States (New York: The New Press, 2008), 184.
Marshall Smith, The Miracle Maker of Green Bay, Wis. Life Magazine, December 7, 1962, 52.
1968 Nixon vs. Humphrey vs. Wallace, Museum of the Moving Image, accessed November 2013,
As football historian Michael Oriard noted, the fact that the Super Bowl is completely organized by the
league itself, signals that it is the unadulterated expression of the leagues values, which makes its emphasis
on nationalism and militarism all the more revealing.
Ira Berkow, Once Again, Its the Star-Spangled Super Bowl, New York Times, January 27, 1991, S6.
Dave Zirin, David Meggyesy: The Edge of Sports Interview, Edge of Sports, January 1, 2004, accessed
September 2013.
Michael J Carden, NFL, Military Continue Super Bowl Traditions, U.S. Department of Defense,
January 29, 2009, accessed September 2013.
Super Bowl III in 1969, America Thanks was the halftime shows theme, and the show
consisted of the Florida A&M band performing patriotic ballads.

Most fascinating though was the halftime show of Super Bowl IV in 1970, which
consisted of a re-creation of the Battle of New Orleans.
While the Battle of New
Orleans was ultimately irrelevant to the outcome of the War of 1812, the decisive
American victory became a nationalist symbol in antebellum America. During the
reenactment, cannons were blasted, smoke spread through Tulane Stadium, and while
many coughed and rubbed their eyes, men with muskets in old British and American
uniforms were falling in mock death on the football field.
While reenacting any battle
would have demonstrated the leagues support of the military, the fact that Rozelle
decided to showcase this battle in particular is revealing. By 1970, the Vietnam War had
largely divided the country and the lack of military progress disenchanted many
Americans. Vietnam clearly needed its own Battle of New Orleans, an event that would
unite the nation and produce a mass feeling of nationalistic pride. As no such event had
occurred in Southeast Asia, Rozelle had the original battle staged in front of an audience
of 46 million in order to function as a viable substitute for actual military victory.
Rozelle also demonstrated the sports support for the Vietnam War by instituting
new policies related to the national anthem during the 1969 season. While playing the
Star-Spangled Banner had been standard practice at NFL games since World War II,
there was no formal league policy on how players must conduct themselves during the
anthem. Despite the lack of formalized policy, when players failed to act in a satisfactory

Super Bowl Entertainment, National Football League, accessed September 2013,
Scalpers Soaked as Rains Pass, New York Times, January 12, 1970, 52.
Berkow, Star-Spangled Super Bowl, S6.
manner during the national anthem, they were punished accordingly. For example, during
the 1968 season, Rozelle censured Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Phil Odle for simply
failing to sing the Star-Spangled Banner during a nationally televised game.
In order
to clarify the leagues position, in 1969 Rozelles office issued a general order that all
players on NFL teams stand at attention during the anthem, the starters on the field with
their helmets neatly under their arms, the reserves in the same posture along the bench.

Additionally, the commissioner issued orders against talking, nervous footwork, gum
chewing and shoulder-pad slamming during The Banner.
In response to the new
policy, speaking on behalf of his fellow players, Los Angeles Rams tackle Merlin Olson
emphasized, sometimes football players look a little preoccupied. They do have certain
anxieties and want things to get under way. But people shouldnt take that for disrespect
or lack of attention [to the national anthem]. Its really not.
While the obvious
implication of the new rule was that players needed to be told to act patriotically, Olson
wanted to stress that players inattentiveness during the anthem was wholly unrelated to
their love for America. While it is unclear if Olson was speaking truthfully, the fact that
he felt compelled to clarify the rule indicates the high level of sensitivity surrounding the
national anthem.
While the policy itself was clearly nationalistic in its intent, details regarding its
implementation also demonstrated the football establishments unconditional patriotism.
With the Minnesota Vikings set to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV, it was

National Central, Sports Illustrated, September 21, 1970, accessed August 2013,
Dwight Chapin, To Play, or Not to Play Anthem: That Is Question, Los Angeles Times, January 9,
1972, C1.
J. D. Reed, Gallantly Screaming, Sports Illustrated, January 3, 1977, accessed August 2013,
Chapin, Anthem, C1.
reported not only will the Vikings be ready for the Chiefs but also for the National
Anthemthe squad had National Anthem drills.
Vikings guard Milt Sunde, who was
also in the National Guard, taught the players how to line up evenly on the field, to stand
at attention and how not to wiggle or scratch.
Meggyesys fate after he refused to
comply with the policy was indicative of the consequences a player faced if he did not act
in accordance with Rozelles edict. In his 1970 football autobiography Out Of Their
League Meggyesy recalled:
Id thought a lot about this and decided that saluting the flag was
ridiculous. Every time I even looked at it, I saw only a symbol of
repression so I decided to protest. My original idea was to pull a Tommy
Smith by raising my right fist in the air and bowing my headI was aware
that if my protest was too obvious I would be severely fined. When the
National Anthem started I stepped out of line and began kicking the dirt
and holding my helmet down in front of me with my two hands. My head
was bowed and I was spitting on the ground and moving from side to side
scuffling the ground with my shoes.

Along with other antiwar activity, Meggyesys weekly protest against the anthem
eventually led to his benching midway through the 1969 season. As evidenced by the
Vikings emphasis on the anthem and by the repercussions Meggyesy faced, Rozelles
anthem directive was not simply an extraneous part of his program but an important
policy that would be strongly enforced. Rozelle took the anthem so seriously that
sportswriter Jim Murray mocked the commissioner and joked that Rozelles next step
would be to adopt a policy of rewarding the team that picked its nose least during the
National Anthem with a victory in the event of a tie.

William Wallace, Coach Of Vikings Cites Foes Depth, New York Times, January 9, 1970, 25.
Meggyesy, Out of Their League, 246. After winning the gold medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1968
Olympic Games in Mexico City, as a sign of protest against American policies, Tommy Smith gave the
black power salute during the playing of the national anthem.
The NFL used USO tours as a method of demonstrating their support for the war
to a national audience. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in 1965, NFL
Commissioner Pete Rozelle, looking for a way to demonstrate the league's support for
America's fighting forces, conceived the idea of sending NFL players to Vietnam on
goodwill tours.
The groups were sponsored jointly by the USO, the Commissioner
of Football, Pete Rozelle, and the Department of Defense.
Co-sponsoring a USO tour
was extremely rare and the NFL was the first sports-related entity to do so. In 1971, the
programs for the NFL tours stated that the NFL was the first sports organization, back in
1966, to send a group to Vietnam and they intend to continue to send groups for as long
as needed.
While the rising death toll and lack of military progress disenchanted the
American public with the waronly 28% of the country still supported the war by
1971the NFL continued to publicize it longstanding involvement with pride.

Additionally in a 1970 letter from Bill Granholm, a member of the commissioners
office, to Wilbur W. Evans, the Staff Entertainment Director at the Special Services
Offices, Granholm commented, there have been some fine articles in the papers
concerning our trips.
Granholms mindfulness of press coverage of the tours, a factor
completely separate from morale boosting, combined with his constant requests for
photographs taken of players with soldiers for the purpose of distribution to the press,
reveals the leagues true agenda. Also, despite being a relatively anonymous league

Football and America.
1969 Pro-Football Unit #1, 1969, RG 0472, Entry# P 191, Container #9, The National Archives,
College Park, MD.
1971 NFL United NO.2. 1971, RG 0472, Entry# P 191, Container #26, The National Archives, College
Park, MD.
Public Opinion and the Vietnam War.
Letter from Bill Granholm to Wilbur Evans, 1970, RG 0472, Entry# P 181, Container #18, The National
Archives, College Park, MD.

executive with little to add to a morale boosting mission, the fact that Granholm joined
players on multiple tours to Vietnam, is in itself evidence of the pro-war culture held
within the league office.
The vast majority of football players returned from the league sponsored USO
tours expressing patriotic fervor, which further served the leagues pro-war agenda. As
sportswriter Jim Barniak proclaimed, athletes fresh from those State Department junkets
through rice paddies generally drench the home folks in patriotism.
When Washington
Redskins star linebacker, Sam Huff, returned from the inaugural tour in 1966, he
asserted, We (the United States) are not only fighting a war in Vietnam; we are building
a nation from the ground up, constructing schools and other buildings, teaching self
government, and teaching these people to protect themselves.
Huffs words refer to
the United States nation building programs that coincided with the war. However, as
historian Michael Latham noted, nation building programs like the Strategic-Hamlet
Program were destructive campaigns of forced population resettlement. The contrast
between Lathams dark description of families resettled at gunpoint and Huffs ignorant
praise reveals the propaganda value of athletes returning from the USO tours.

Even as the war became increasingly controversial, football players returning
from Vietnam were nearly unanimous in their support. After returning from Vietnam in
1970, another Redskins star linebacker, Chris Hanburger, reminded the disenchanted
public that the war was still worthwhile. Hanburger recalled, one injured soldier told me,

Norm Still A Dove, 1970, RG 0472, Entry# P 181, Container #18, The National Archives, College Park,
Dave Brady, Violent Word of Huff Doesnt Rival Vietnam, The Washington Post, February 3, 1966,
Michael E. Latham, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and Nation Building in the
Kennedy Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 181.
I hate this place (Vietnam) but the job has to be done, and we (the Americans) are the
only ones who can do it the right way.
Throughout the duration of the war, Rozelle
and football establishment encouraged players to discuss their experience on the tours as
long as they portrayed the war in a positive manner.
Outside of the USO context, the football establishment also supported and
rewarded individuals who expressed conservative and nationalistic ideologies. Two
notable examples of this phenomenon are Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins
head coach Vince Lombardi and Buffalo Bills quarterback Jack Kemp. Lombardi, who is
forever memorialized as the namesake of the trophy awarded to the Super Bowl
champion, was known for his nationalistic ideology. Indeed, Lombardi often cited his
formative experience as an assistant coach at the United States Military Academy as
enormously influential to his later career. Emblematic of Lombardis ideology, during a
1968 game against the Baltimore Colts, he mandated that the team present all 50,861 fans
with American flags and that Lambeau Stadium be decked out in red, white, and blue
Prior to the 1970 season, as coach of the Redskins, when asked about dissent
and the counterculture movement, Lombardi asserted, I dont know what all this
revolution stuff is about. I just know I dont like to hear such talk. You will not hear any
member of theRedskins talking this wayI have not run into any disciplinary
problems on the Redskinsand that includes the matter of long hair.
When he died

Dave Brady, Hanburger Admits Boss Tough, Vietnam Worse, The Washington Post, February 19,
1970, F1.
Packers Are Down to Their Last Out, The Washington Post, December 5, 1968, K6.
Cooper Rollow, Dissent but Dont Destroy: Lombardi, Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1970, B1.
suddenly in September 1970, Lombardis obituary was not titled Lombardi: A Coach or
Lombardi: A NFL Legend, but rather Lombardi: A Patriot.

Kemp, the Bills quarterback, was a firm anti-communist and strongly believed in
the Vietnam War. Humorously, during the 1964 season, a rumor swept Buffalo that Bills
running back Cookie Gilchrist was getting fewer carries because quarterback Jack Kemp,
a staunch Republican, refused to hand the ball off to an unabashed lefty.
In March
1970, the congressional seat represented by Buffalo became vacant, and at 35 years old,
Kemp decided to retire from football and run for Congress. When Kemp espoused the
leagues conservative values on the campaign trail, Rozelle publicly gave him the
leagues endorsement and supported the congressional hopeful by speaking at campaign
While no data exists prior to 1985, Rozelle financially supported many of
Kemps campaigns after that point.
In 1980, after 20 years on the job, Rozelle admitted,
Im not as close to the players as I used to be, and that his close friends today include
people likeKemp, and, in a way, these are still the players to Rozelle. The ones
whodon't venerate Vince Lombardi are impostors.
Though by 1980, conservative
heroes Kemp and Lombardi had long been out of football, to Rozelle they still
represented the standard for the ideal player and coach.
Organized football took steps to silence dissent against the Vietnam War within
the sport. While most football players returned from USO tours in strong support of the

Bob Addie, Lombardi: A Patriot, The Washington Post, September 4, 1970, D5.
Mark Bechtel, Jack Kemp 1935-2009, Sports Illustrated, May 11, 2009, accessed August 2013,
Pat Ryan, The Making of A Quarterback 1970, Sports Illustrated, December 7, 1970, accessed August
Pete Rozelle Political Donations, Newsmeat, accessed October 2013,
Frank Deford, 2:00 Welcome Commissioner Pete Rozelle & Wife Carrie, Sports Illustrated, January
21, 1980, accessed August 2013,
war, New York Jets star quarterback Joe Namath returned more critical than ever. Prior to
visiting Southeast Asia in the winter of 1969, Namath, sporting a Fu Manchu mustache,
and donning pantyhose for a commercial was already footballs symbol of rebellious
youth in the 1960's.
Though he had never publicly discussed the war prior to his
involvement with the USO, after the tour he proclaimed, more than anything else, that
trip really makes you annoyed at the war and makes you wonder what the hell were
doing there.

This opposition to the war put Namath under scrutiny from the NFL and almost
ended his career. After he returned from the USO tour and commented on the war,
Rozelle informed the quarterback that if he wished to remain in the league, he must sell
his part ownership in Bachelors III, an east side Manhattan restaurant and cocktail
loungebecause it is said to be frequented by undesirables.
While the restaurant had
nothing to do with Namaths football career, in this era of low salaries and a weak
players union, Rozelle had virtually limitless control over the players. Rozelles edict
was simply a form of public chastisement as a result of the star quarterbacks criticism of
the war. Namath temporarily retired as a matter of principle, but after discussions with
Rozelle he eventually sold his stake in the restaurant and continued playing. Notably,
after the incident Namath refused to discuss the war and carefully avoided political
Despite an invitation, Namath refused to appear at a 1972 rally for
antiwar presidential candidate George McGovern and spurned alliances with politicians

Gerald Eskenazi,Make an Apology, Namath Suggests; No, Johnson Replies, New York Times, August
1, 1977, B7.
Dave Anderson, Vietnam Victims Gain Namaths Salute, New York Times, February 16, 1969, S2.
George Strickler, Namath Quits Football On Principle, Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1969, 1.
Dave Anderson, Political Football, New York Times, July 1, 1973, 160.
in Alabama, Florida, and New York.
Even more stunning, in order to retain his career,
by 1972, Namath had completely morphed into a conformist and when asked about the
national anthem, he replied, I like it playedEvery time I hear it before a game, it
reminds me of where we are in the world, in life. I kind of thank God that were in this
Namath made the necessary calculation and realized that in order to remain
one of the games biggest stars, he had no choice but to acquiesce to Rozelles agenda.
Cardinals linebacker Dave Meggyesy was footballs most explicit and politically
active Vietnam dissenter. As Meggyesy wrote in his 1970 memoir, during the 1967
offseason after he had spoken at two antiwar meetings at Southern Illinois University,
Stormy Bidwell, the Cardinals president, called me and asked me to meet him at his
office at the stadium concerning something he refused to discuss on the phone.

Bidwell had heard about the linebackers presence at antiwar meetings and while he
reluctantly respected Meggyesys right to protest the war, he forbade him from joining
antiwar groups such as Students for a Democratic Society. Additionally, prior to the 1968
Democratic National Convention, Meggyesy wrote a petition for Cardinals players who
supported antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy to sign. The petition read:
Because of the critical state of the Democratic Party and the nation, we
professional athletes feel compelled to announce our support of Senator
Eugene J. McCarthy as the Democratic nominee for President of the
United States. As professional football players and concerned young men,
we have became aware of the need in this country for Senator McCarthys
positive and progressive policies concerning the Vietnam WarIf we are
to salvage the concept and practice of the democratic process and also
include the disaffected generation of young people, Senator McCarthys
nomination is imperative.

Meggyesy, Out of Their League, 189.
Meggyesy, Out of Their League, 224.
While he adamantly disagreed with the petition, Bidwell permitted Meggyesy to circulate
it amongst teammates17 signed it as long as it was only forwarded to the Missouri
delegates at the convention, not to newspapers. As evidenced by these incidents, Bidwell
permitted players to privately protest the war.
However, when Meggyesy began protesting the war in a more overt and public
manner, Bidwell responded much more harshly. In 1969, which was incidentally
Meggyesys last season playing professional football, an episode erupted regarding the
accidental publication of an antiwar petition signed by 37 Cardinals. Meggyesy had given
a copy of the petition to an associate who ignored Meggyesys request to keep it
confidential, and forwarded it to the Businessmens Committee to End the War. Realizing
its potential, the committee released it to the press. During a practice in October, when
the players were notified that the petition would be made public the next day, Coach
Charley Winner told Meggyesy, Listen, I dont want you to practice today. I want you to
get a hold of that petition as soon as you can.
Meggyesy stopped the petitions
publication, but Winner warned the team, anybody who is involved in further political
organizing will be dealt with by the head coach.
After Meggyesy gave an interview in
which he denounced the war, the team finally had enough and he was benched. Whether
Meggyesy was forced out of the league or retired on his own terms is unclear, but the
critical point is by the end of the 1969 season an ardent Vietnam protester and
professional football could no longer coexist.

Meggyesy, Out of Their League, 252.
In his memoir Meggyesy writes that he retired on his own terms. However, given that he was he was
never offered another professional contract, the circumstances of his retirement are ambiguous.
While Meggyesy stands out as the NFLs most prominent Vietnam dissenter,
opposition to the Vietnam War was widespread within the NFL locker-room. According
to Meggyesys account, only 13 players out of the 50 he asked refused to sign the petition
calling for the war in Vietnam to end. Whether it was because of a league gag order, fear
of being cut, or simply due to institutional culture, out of the 37 Cardinals players who
opposed the war in Vietnam, 36 stayed silent. The general sense of a crisis of authority
and changing social order that defined the 1960s explains why the league was so
concerned with dissent and repressed it vehemently. On the impact of the war on
American life, Buzzanco asserted, youth culture, music, sex, film, and other media
indeed the very politics of cultureall changed markedly because of the war and its
attendant movements and footballs silence of dissent was its method of attempting to
insulate itself from this greater social change.
That this dissent was never publicized is
a testament to organized footballs comprehensive effort to portray their sport as behind
the war and remain above the chaos of the era.
Just months after ground combat in Vietnam had ended, in August 1973 Rozelle
was honored for his and the NFLs contribution to the war effort. The Veterans of
Foreign Wars, the official nonprofit service organization for USA military veterans,
awarded the Americanism Gold Medal to Rozelle.
The Americanism award was
awarded to an individual for outstanding contributions to American principles.
contributions to American principles is a broad criterion, considering that VFW was a
congressionally sponsored military organization, they defined American principles as

Buzzanco, Vietnam, 234.
About Us, Veterans of Foreign Wars, accessed September 2013,
Us/; and , Rozelle Will Not Act On Thomas Incident, New York Times August 22, 1973, F5.
Section 9; Awards & Citations, Veterans of Foreign Wars, accessed September 2013,
unconditional support for the war. Indeed, the VFW was honoring Rozelles nationalism
and jingoism. In their view, the fact that he directed organized footballs institutional
support for the war while most of the country opposed the war in Vietnam was a
tremendous achievement and worthy of recognition.
The game of football may have inherently promoted war and militarism, but the
Vietnam War provoked the football establishment to consciously support the war effort.
While the development of the Super Bowl, policies regarding the national anthem, and
treatment of dissenters explains how organized football supported the war in Vietnam, it
is footballs status as the American war game that presents a logical rationale for
Unlike, professional baseball and boxing, which would remain safe from
countercultural attacks, footballs overt association with war and violence, made it a
natural target. And though the ground war in Vietnam ended in 1973 this continuation of
war by other means remains ongoing.

Morgan, War Game, 71.
Morgan, War Game, 148.
Chapter 2 Where Soldiers and Veterans Are, Baseball Will Be

When Ford Frick, the commissioner of baseball, decided to retire in 1965, the
sport was at a crossroads. Despite being the traditional national pastime, by the middle of
the decade, professional football had surpassed baseball as the most popular American
sport. As Robert Elias noted, during the Vietnam era, it was football, not baseball, that
best fit this combative mode and the nations increasing escalation of the Vietnam
Indeed, emblematic of baseballs declining grip on officials and on Americans
generallyPresident Johnson ended [the] perfunctory visits to Washingtons Griffith
The owners were aware of baseballs precarious position and confronting the
challenges of professional football was at the forefront of their mind when selecting a
new commissioner. While baseball could never match footballs inherent violence, it was
possible to emulate its programmatic support for the war in Vietnam. As a method of
maintaining significance in the wake of professional footballs surging popularity, the
baseball establishment made the strategic decision to empower military leadership,
overtly support the war in Vietnam, and silence internal dissent.
Baseballs owners looked for an individual with strong military connections to
replace outgoing commissioner Ford Frick. John Fetzer and John Galbreath, owners of
the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates respectively, and leaders of the screening
committee, were charged with the task of evaluating a list of 156 nominees for
Once the list of 156 nominees was narrowed down to seven by October

Robert Elias, The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S Foreign Policy And Promoted the
American Way Abroad (New York: The New Press, 2010), 198.
Jim Enright, Eckert, Baseballs New Boss, Has Standout Military Record, The Sporting News,
November 27, 1965, 13.

1965, three of the remaining individuals had held military leadership positions. They
were Stephen Ailes, former Secretary of the Army, Eugene Zuckert, former Secretary of
the Air Force, and General Curtis Lemay, retired Air Force Chief of Staff.
The other four
nominees on the shortlist all held leadership positions within organized baseball and as
such all of the outside candidates had a strong connection to the United States military.
Perhaps most indicative of the search committees priorities was the fact that Sargent
Shriver, former director of the Peace Corps, head of the Office of Economic Opportunity,
and one of the original 156 nominees, was not considered for the short list while General
LeMay, a man who infamously called for the United States to drop a nuclear bomb on
Vietnam, made the list.
In the end, though, the owners opted to select retired Air Force
General William Spike Eckert. Due to his relative anonymity, the sports media quickly
dubbed baseballs new commander-in-chief the unknown soldier.

While football had long been associated with war, Eckert attempted to
manufacture a similar association between war and baseball. Though Eckert was a
stranger to the game, Elias suggested, if baseball was lagging as the national pastime,
then the military connection might provide a patriotic boost.
According to a Sports
Illustrated article reviewing Eckerts first three months as commissioner, the author
commented that Eckert learns fast and that he has been partially brainwashed into
believing that baseball is a holy callinghe thinks now it should be exported as an
instrument of international goodwill.
Just as Americas involvement with the war in

Seven Candidates Still in Race For Post of Commissioner, The Sporting News, November 6, 1965, 6.
Elias, Empire, 198.
John Underwood, Progress Report On The Unknown Solider, Sports Illustrated, April 04, 1966,
Ibid and Elias, Empire, 199.
Vietnam began escalating with the introduction of ground troops in 1965, Eckert
explicitly brought the sport closer to the war. In an interview with sportswriter Dick
Young, Eckert asserted, in Vietnam you want excellence in fighting unitsand its
measured statistically like batting averages, and you get awards just like in baseball.

Additionally, in December 1966, under Eckerts direction, the American League held its
end of season event at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The patients, many of
whom were Vietnam veterans, were promised, Where soldiers and veterans are, baseball
will be.

Eckert also supported the war effort in Vietnam with his actions. In October 1966,
Eckert followed professional footballs lead and initiated baseballs first collaboration
with the Department of Defense. He created a USO handshaking tour to Vietnam,
which featured baseballs personalities. This inaugural tour and the subsequent ones were
met with great praise, the only criticism being that baseball did not get the publicity it
In 1967, Eckert was honored for the success and impact of tours and
received a meritorious award from the Air Force.
At the ceremony Representative L.
Mendel Rivers, chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, declared, I think the
choice of Gen. Eckert as baseball commissioner was an extremely fortunate one.
Eckert moved the national pastime in support of the war, his ascendance to the
commissionership was indeed fortunate for Rivers and his hawkish colleagues. In
addition to the USO tours to Southeast Asia, Eckert ordered player visits to the

Elias, Empire, 199.
Walter Reed GIs Premier New American League Film, The Sporting New December 31, 1966, 41.
Max Nichols, Eckert Learns Quickly, Says Ex-Foe Griffith, The Sporting News, January 28, 1967, 22.
Bob Addie, Eckert Honored for Aid to Morale in Vietnam, The Sporting News, November 18, 1967,
Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, the Virgin Islands and other Latin American
countries in order to cement baseball at the center of people-to-people international
relations within the Cold War framework.
Due to its potential to become communist,
President Kennedy famously dubbed Latin America, the most dangerous area in the
world, and Eckert used his sport in an attempt to prevent the region from turning read.
Thus to Eckert, baseball was much more than a game, but a means to spread American
values abroad and ultimately prevent the rise of communism in the Third World.
Eckert and the baseball establishment instituted new policies regarding the
playing of the national anthem. After playing a non-traditional version of the national
anthem at the 1968 World Series, musician Jose Feliciano was demonized.
organized baseball and its fans made clear that the display of the growing counterculture
movement was not welcome within the sport. In the aftermath of the Feliciano fiasco,
MLB then mandated that teams only play conservative versions of the national
Additionally, while most teams had previously only played the national
anthem sporadically throughout the season, during the Vietnam era, it became a daily
ritual at all baseball games. In 1967, President of the Chicago Cubs John Holland
proclaimed, because of the situation in Vietnamwe feel that the time now has come to
do [the national anthem] daily.
While the Cubs previously reserved the Star-Spangled
Banner for holidays and special occasions, the team, like many others, changed its policy
to support the country, troops, and war by playing it on a daily basis. However, to some,
the overplaying of the national anthem had its disadvantages. In 1972, Kansas City

William D. Eckert, Eckert Offers 67 Progress Report, The Sporting News, January 16, 1968, 34.
Barbara Stanton, Fans Irate Over Desecrated Anthem , The Sporting News, October 19, 1968, 13
Elias, Empire, 205.
Bruins Install an OrganTo Play National Anthem, The Sporting News, February 18, 1967, 32.
Royals owner Ewing Kauffmann announced that he was deeply offended by the lack of
respect the anthem received and reasoned that playing it less would force the crowd to
give the anthem and flag the proper respect it deserved. Consequently, the Royals revised
their policy and the anthem would not be played, except on Sundays and special
After abiding by this new policy for a month, Kaufmann changed his mind
and decided it was important to daily demonstrate the sports nationalism.
demanded that the anthem would not be subjected to dissent or protest and clarified,
when the song begins, every fan, every stadium worker, every vender will stop and face
the colors, and that silence will reign throughout the stadium.
In effect, at least in
Kansas City, those who identified with the antiwar movement were no longer invited to
attend a baseball game.
Just three years into his tenure as commissioner, in 1968, Eckert was fired.
Baseball again began searching for a new image and leader. While the Vietnam War was
extremely unpopular by this time, Eckerts dismissal was not related to his pro-war
stance. In fact, the owners who were most critical of Eckert, such as Calvin Griffith, cited
Eckerts moving the sport to support the war in Vietnam as his sole accomplishment.

In replacing the unknown soldier, baseball turned to a true baseball insider Bowie
Kuhn, who had served as National League counsel and been involved in baseball for
years. While Kuhn also had military experience, serving in the Navy during World War
II, he and Eckert could not have been more different.
While Eckert had been uninvolved

Royals Rstore National Anthem, The Sporting News, July 8, 1972, 26.
Ibid and Elias, Empire, 206.
Nichols, Eckert Learns Quickly, Says Ex-Foe Griffith.
Leonard Koppett, Bowie Kuhn, Wall St. Lawyer, Named Commissioner Pro Tem of Baseball , New
York Times, February 5, 1968, 29.

in the sport and had not even attended a baseball game in the decades leading up to his
appointment, Kuhn was an avid fan and at age 42, the youngest commissioner in the
games history. Coming of age during the end of the Great Depression and World War II
deeply influenced Kuhns worldview and fostered his belief in American exceptionalism
and excellence. Despite being the most unusual commissioner in the history of the sport,
like his predecessors, Kuhn would surely wave an American flag.

Like Eckert, Kuhn made the USO tours a top priority. Early in his
commissionership, Kuhn called the USO one of our most valuable associations and
promised we will become even more involved with the USO in the future.
himself even joined a group of star players on a tour in early 1970 and formed a personal
bond with Wilbur Evans, the Staff Entertainment Director at the Special Services Offices.
After the tour, Kuhn wrote Evans asking for any photographs that documented Kuhn and
the players experience in Vietnam.
The circulation of images of players interacting
with troops had the dual outcome of softening the image of the war zone while
simultaneously presenting organized baseball as fulfilling its patriotic duty.
During the continued escalation that occurred in Vietnam in President Richard
Nixons first term, Kuhn aligned himself with the president.
In 1969, with the All-Star
game located at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C, Kuhn and Nixon arranged for the
White House to be open to four hundred professional baseball players. At the event,
Kuhn presented the embattled president with a plaque that labeled him the greatest team

William Leggett, The Big Leagues Select A Fan, Sports Illustrated, February 17, 1969,
MLB Centennial Showcase, 1969, RG 0472, Entry# P 191, Container #16, The National Archives,
College Park, MD.
Letter from Bowie Kuhn to Wilbur Evans, 1969, RG 0472, Entry# P 191, Container #16, The National
Archives, College Park, MD.
Elias, Empire, 207.
member, a title the antiwar movement contested.
Capitalizing on his relationship with
organized baseball, and eager for positive war-related press, Nixon urged owners to
honor former Vietnam prisoners of war at games. While Kuhn did not have control over
individual teams game-day ceremonies, he acquiesced to the president and decided to
give all returning Vietnam prisoners of war a lifetime baseball pass.
The choice to
give these lifetime passes to returning prisoners of war was unprecedented. This same
gesture was not extended to those who had been held as prisoners during World War II or
the Korean War.

On October 15, 1969, antiwar protestors organized the national moratorium, a
nation-wide protest, to end the war in Vietnam. With more than two million people
involved across the country, this peace moratorium is believed to have been the largest
demonstration in U.S. history.
In conjunction with the demonstration, in a highly
controversial move, New York Citys Mayor John Lindsay declared a day of mourning in
the city and mandated all flags be flown at half-staff. Coincidently, that same day, game
four of the World Series was scheduled in Queens between the New York Mets and
Baltimore Orioles. In defiance of Mayor Lindsays proclamation, by direction of
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the flags at Shea Stadium were flown at full-staff.
decision indicated that his definition of supporting the troops was limited to faithful
expressions of patriotism and jingoism. Kuhn was unwilling to support the troops by
recognizing their sacrifice and acknowledging the human cost of this war. Kuhns failure

Stephen Hausmann, Other Pows Deserving, The Sporting News, March 10, 1973, 8.
1969: Millions march in US Vietnam Moratorium, BBC, accessed August 2, 2013,
Game Four Slants, The Sporting News, November 1, 1969, 6.
to mourn the 48,746 troops who had been killed up to that point, a decision made in
consultation with interested parties, including military personnel, indicates that for
organized baseball, supporting the troops was no more than a euphemism for supporting
the war.

After visiting Vietnam, many players who had never given the war much thought
returned as patriotic warriors ready to publicly defend the war and its goals. Upon
returning from Vietnam, Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks had a renewed sense of the
wars purpose and lambasted the domestic antiwar movement. Banks proclaimed that
compared to the GIs he met in Vietnam, many young people in the States are virtually
Banks went on to assert that in the United States, you see a lot of young
people complaining, who hang out in the streets and dont want to work.
This negative
portrayal of the antiwar movement greatly differed from historian Robert Buzzancos
scholarly depiction. Buzzanco asserted that yes, the counterculture movements did
complainthey often rejected traditional politics or the establishment culturebut
they certainly worked as well.
The movements tirelessly worked to create new
organizations, institutions, and cultural relationships.
They were active and certainly
did more than lazily hang out in the streets. By characterizing the antiwar movement in
this way, Banks attempted to undermine the movements credibility.

Ibid and. Statistical Information about Fatal Causalities of the Vietnam War, National Archives,
Accessed August 2013,
Stan Isle, Vietnam Soldiers Cheer Banks, No. 1 Morale Booster, The Sporting News, December 14,
1968, 31.
Robert Buzzanco, Vietnam and The Transformation of American Life (Malden, MA: Blackwell
Publishers, 1999), 7.
When Pete Rose returned from visiting Vietnam in 1967, he promoted established
notions of masculine heroism.
He praised the troops and declared, most of them are
boys of nineteen or twenty but, believe me, theyre men.
Rose drew a distinction
between these clean-cut soldiers and the fake men he and other traditionalists saw
growing their hair long, piercing their ears, and experimenting sexually.
In his book
Imperial Brotherhood historian Robert Dean asserted that high-level Cold War policy
makers deliberately attempted to preserve traditional conceptions of masculinity and what
it meant to be a man. Dean noted how President Johnson
repeatedly used the Texas Rangers as examples of the way manly men
reacted to the external threats facing their community or nation.
Roosevelts Rough Rider narrative also shaped Johnsons conceptions of
masculinity, patriotism, and U.S. imperial destiny. The western and
frontier manliness and heroism Roosevelt celebrated in his own quest for
political power and recognition offered Johnson an opportunity to reshape
the story of imperial masculine leadership to his political ends.

Roses comments indicate that Johnsons thought influenced discourse on a popular level
in fighting the domestic war against the antiwar and counterculture movements.
Organized baseball encouraged its players to engage in demonstrations in support
of the Vietnam War. A chilling example of this occurred when New York Yankees
rookie John Ellis, who was serving in the Connecticut National Guard, was sent to
confront an antiwar protest at Yale. After disbanding the protest, he was asked if he
would ever fire at demonstrators. Ellis replied, I think I would have to find myself in a

Elias, Empire, 203.
Earl Lawson, Petes Praise Has No Limit When It Comes to GI Spirit, The Sporting News, December
2, 1967, 47.
Elias, Empire, 203.
Texas Rangers as in the Cavalry Unit during the Civil War, not the baseball franchise. Interestingly, in
order to pay homage to these manly men of the past, in 1972, the Washington Senators relocated to
Arlington, Texas and became the Texas Rangers.
Robert D. Dean, Imperial Brotherhood: Gender and Making of Cold War Foreign Policy (Amherst:
University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 49.
spot similar to that in which the fellows at Kent State did.
The event that Ellis referred
to occurred on May 4, 1970: after students, standing hundreds of yards away, threw
rocks and bottles at the Reservists, several soldiers opened fire, killing four and
wounding 13 others.
While the Kent State Massacre was widely viewed as an abuse of
force and power, the baseball establishment praised Ellis for his controversial comment.
Baseball executives declared that Ellis might belong to the Age of Aquarius, but he
retains the commonsense of the Age of Normalcy, when colleges housed scholars, not
As it was pro-war, Ellis highly provocative statement had no
repercussions on his budding career and he would go on to play 13 productive seasons of
professional baseball. Similarly, in 1968, an antiwar protester attempted to stop an army
induction ceremony at Tiger Stadium. Detroit Tigers catcher Bill Freehan observed the
situation and clamped a rigid armlock on the protester until the police arrived.

Although the protester was a 22-year-old ex-Marine, baseball seemed to forget all of its
rhetoric about supporting the troops, and lauded Freehan for his decisive action. While
the actions and attitudes of these players were no more indicative of baseballs
institutional attitudes than the actions and attitudes of dissenting players, baseballs
positive response to players who demonstrated support for the war is revealing.
When responding to internal dissenters, an entirely different set of rules applied.
As in professional football, during this era there was no free agency, no multi-year
contracts, and an ineffective players association. The baseball establishment thus had
tremendous control over players that it used to silence dissent.

Jim Ogle, Ellis Helps Cool It at Yale Demonstration, The Sporting News, May 23, 1970, 20.
Buzzanco, Vietnam, 106.
Ogle, Ellis, 20.
Freehan Rescues Tiger Official Attacker, The Sporting News, July 13, 1968, 33.

Pitcher Jim Boutons treatment after he published his journal from his 1969
baseball season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros exemplified what happened to
those bold enough to speak out. Titled Ball Four, and published in 1970, the book
exposed many of baseballs innermost secrets. A review written just after Bouton
published his diary proclaimed, Bouton has written the funniest, frankest book yet about
the species ballplayer saty-riaticus.
Within baseball though, most were not amused
with Boutons expos and labeled him irreverent, a betrayer of secrets, a clubhouse
lawyer, and condemned him for not caring whom he converts into enemies.
the books primary focus was the complex, at times charming and often infantile
relationships that make up a typical baseball team, the pitcher also discussed the war in
Bouton revealed his own feelings about the war when he wrote, I realized
how old Im getting when I heard that one of [my] fan-club members was in Vietnam. It
just doesnt seem right that a member of my fan club should be fighting in Vietnam. Or
that anyone should be.
Additionally, unlike many of his peers, Bouton praised the
antiwar movement and youth movements in general. In reference to visiting Berkeleys
campus when Boutons team was in the Bay Area playing the Oakland Athletics, he
Gary [Bell, a teammate] and I are really the crazy ones. I mean were
concerned about getting the Oakland Athletics out. Were concerned about
making money in real estate, and about ourselves and our families. These
kids, though, are genuinely concerned about whats going on around them.
Theyre concerned about Vietnam, poor people, black people. Theyre
concerned about the way things are and theyre trying to change them... So

Rex Lardner, The Oddball With the Knuckleball, New York Times, July 26, 1970.
David Zirin, A Peoples History of Sports in the United States (New York: The New Press, 2008), 190.
Jim Bouton, Ball Four (Toronto: Madison Books, 1984), 119.
they wear long hair and sandals and have dirty feet. I can understand why.
Its a badge, a sign they are different from people who dont care.

Bouton went on to charge that players were only permitted to express their beliefs
if they supported the war. He claimed that the primary reason the Yankees released him
after the 1968 season was that he did not obey team rules regarding communication with
reporters. According to Yankees rules, you could talk about the war in Vietnam, only
you had to say, look at those crazy kids marching in the street. Why dont they take a
bath?If you said these things, no one would accuse you of talking politics because you
were right.
However, if you said things like, weve got no right to be in Vietnam,
then you shouldnt be talking about things like that because you were wrong.

Additionally Bouton asserted, if the choice for a pinch hitter or relief pitcher was
between a long-haired guy and a short-haired guy, the [latter] would get into the game.

Boutons revelations suggest that baseball was insistent on portraying its players in
support of the war. In an interview given after the book was published, Bouton told Time
Magazine, fans are fed a constant stream of bull about these clean-cut, All-America
While Kuhn and his cohorts rationalized this effort by stating a need to avoid
controversy, in 1970, a time when 74% of the country opposed the military intervention
in Vietnam, a statement in support of the war was certainly just as controversial, if not
more so, than a comment against.
Thus, baseballs policy was not about avoiding

Bouton, Ball Four, 145.
Bouton, Ball Four, 84.
Elias, Empire, 353.
Inside Baseball, Time Magazine, June 16, 1970,
Public Opinion and the Vietnam War.
controversy, it was about making it appear that no traces of the antiwar movement existed
in the sport.
Shortly after the book was published, Bouton was punished for exposing
baseballs innermost secrets. A fuming Commissioner Kuhn summoned Bouton to his
office and declared that he had done the game a grave disservice.
Kuhn also warned
the startled pitcher not to write another word about baseball as long as he remained an
active player.
Kuhn even attempted to persuade Bouton to sign a statement saying
the book was a bunch of lies.
After his meeting with Kuhn, reality set in and Bouton
reflected, I figure I've cut my career short by at least three years. If you're a marginal
player who's done what I've done, you've got a fine chance to be cut from the squad I
expect to be punched out one of these days. It's just a matter of time, I suppose.
As it
turned out, Bouton was optimistic in his estimation. He was forced into early retirement
when the Houston Astros demoted him before the 1970 season even ended. This decision
was not performance related: once his reputation was restored, Bouton successfully
returned to the major leagues in the 1978 season. If he was good enough to pitch when he
was 39, then Bouton certainly should have had a place in the major leagues when he was
31. His off-the-field conduct determined that it was not to be.
After his banishment, Bouton reflected on baseballs visceral reaction to his book.
He theorized, I think baseball felt the need to be patriotic, to be on the side of
America and might, supporting wars no matter what, and so that conservative bent, to

Inside Baseball, Time Magazine, June 16, 1970,
Bouton, Ball Four, 408.
Insider Baseball.
have a break from their ranks: this was a little too much for them.
Baseball was able to
maintain this pro-war, patriotic image by forcing players to act a certain way and
shunning any individual like Bouton, who had the courage to speak his mind. As a result
of his dissent, Bouton was taunted by his fellow players and routinely questioned if he
was working for Ho Chi Minh.
Bouton became the protagonist of a cautionary tale
directed at every baseball player.
While Boutons journal made him baseballs biggest threat, there were other
prominent dissenters within the sport. Born in Los Angeles in 1945, Dock Ellis was
definitely of the Age of Aquarius. Ellis identified with the antiwar movement and
counterculture. This is best demonstrated by his admission that when he threw a no-hitter
on June 12,1970, a rare achievement for any pitcher, he was under the influence of
When asked about the war, Ellis calmly responded to the reporters, I dont want
to answer questions about Vietnam. I dont want to get political.
By political, Ellis was
actually referring to league politics. He knew the consequences of speaking out against
the war and did not want to damage his career. After returning from a USO tour, army
public officials attempted to pressure Ellis to go on television with what the pitcher called
some bullshit about Vietnam. Not wanting to become a cog in baseballs propaganda
machine, Ellis threatened to discuss the black market and drugs he saw on his visit in
order to ensure the appearance never took place.
While Ellis was prudent enough to

Zirin, History of Sports,191.
Patrick Hruby, The Long Strange Trip of Dock Ellis: Meet The Man Behind Baseballs Most
Psychedelic Myth, ESPN, 2012,
Ron Briley, Baseball and Dissent: The Vietnam Experience, Nine: Journal of Baseball History and
Culture 17-1 (2008): 54-69.
Elias, Empire, 204.
self-censor, he steadfastly refused to promote the war on the baseball establishments
Similarly, New York Mets star pitcher Tom Seaver was pressured to refrain from
expressing his dissenting views. A military veteran, Seaver was wholeheartedly against
the Vietnam War. Prior to the 1969 World Series he declared:
If the Mets can win the World Series, then we can get out of VietnamI
think its perfectly ridiculous what were doing about the Vietnam
situation. Its absurd! When the Series is over, Im going to have a talk
with Ted Kennedy, convey some of my ideas to him and then take an ad in
the paper. I feel very strongly about this.

This was the same World Series that occurred during the national moratorium and as such
tensions were running high and the baseball establishment considered Seavers
statements abhorrent. During the game that Commissioner Kuhn mandated Shea
Stadiums flags be flown at full-staff, fate would have it that Seaver would pitch. In
celebration of the pitcher, Moratorium Day protestors distributed pamphlets with
Seavers picture and his antiwar sentiments. This angered Seaver, who had not authorized
it. While his stardom prevented the league from treating Seaver like Bouton mannerhis
high value as a player gave him the ability to more freely dissentdue to pressure he
softened his critique of the war. His promised advertisement did not protest the war but
merely asked people to pray for peace.

In 1971, Seavers career was nearly damaged by the revelation of harsh antiwar
comments. Former Met Ron Swoboda, who went through a bitter divorce from the team,
recounted an incident when the Mets got this call from one of President Nixons

Steven Travers, The 1969 Miracle Mets: The Improbable Story of the Worlds Greatest Underdog Team
(Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2009), 131.
Elias, Empire, 205.
secretaries in the White House asking us to visit some wounded vets from Vietnam.

All of the players except for Seaver consented and he allegedly retorted, to hell with
While Seavers popularity allowed him to denounce the war cautiously, he
knew that such a blunt denunciation of the hawkish president was too much even for
him.. Thus, despite the fact that Seavers criticism was in line with his stated political
beliefs, the pitcher was compelled to refute Swobodas story and assert, I have no
recollection of the incident.
For Seaver, such self-censorship was necessary to ensure
that he did not face repercussions from the baseball establishment.
Even in 1973, with the ground war in Vietnam finally over, baseball provided
Nixon with a platform to celebrate the withdrawal of American forces. As Nixon
perpetuated and escalated the war during his entire first term, he bore some responsibility
for the 21,194 troops that were killed during that period.
It is ironic that he celebrated
ending the unwinnable war when he could have stopped it four years earlier. In April
1973, the California Angels honored both a recently freed prisoner of war and Nixon

Baseball also provided the country with a method of recasting the awful legacy of
the Vietnam experience. In June 1973, the New York Mets held a stirring program,
which featured the Merchant Marine Academy band, military color guards, and the
worlds largest American flag; all in celebration of the supposed military victory in
Regardless of the fact that this military victory was completely fictional,

Jack Lang, Ex-Met Swoboda Lays the Cleaver to Seaver, The Sporting News, April 24, 1971, 13.
Statistical Information about Fatal Causalities of the Vietnam War,
Kansas City at California, The Sporting News, April 21, 1973, 26.
Jack Lang, Stirring Mets Program for Pows, The Sporting News, June 30, 1973, 31..
despite the thousands of lives lost and the general futility of the war, organized baseball
was complicit in a thinly veiled attempt to create a positive narrative around the Vietnam
War. Rather than admit its role in supporting the catastrophic war in Vietnam, baseball
attempted to create a more useable past.
In light of the scandalous status attached to the war in Vietnam in American
memory, Commissioner Kuhn would later claim, there was no comprehensive support
of the war effort through anything baseball did.
Despite this denial, it is clear that
there was in fact a comprehensive support of the war effort.. As a method of coping
with footballs rise and learning from that sports success, baseball hired a military
leader, developed a pro-war agenda, and silenced internal dissent. Though baseball did
not share footballs resonance with militarism and war, the baseball establishment felt it
had to support the war. And so it did.

Elias, Empire, 203.
Chapter 3 Man I Aint Got No Quarrel With Them Vietcong

On September 5, 1960, after two weeks of grueling competition, 18-year-old light
heavyweight Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. made his country proud. Standing alone atop the
podium at the magnificent Roman Palazzo della Sport, the young boxer could not help
but smile. An Italian orchestra just performed a marvelous version of the Star Spangled
Banner, the American flag hung from the cathedrals ceiling, and Clay had defeated a
more experienced and heavily favored fighter to win a gold medal, becoming an Olympic
champion. While Clay had obviously won for himself, he made it clear that he had also
won for the United States. When he returned home, he was seen wandering around
Times Square in New York in his pullover uniform with the U.S.A. lettered across his
Clay was a proud American and Americans were proud of Clay. Within seven
years, however, everything changed. In 1964, Clay converted to the Nation of Islam, an
African American religious movement, and took the name Muhammad Ali.
Two years
later, Ali became a pariah, exiled for speaking and acting against the Vietnam War. Due
to political influences, organized boxing was a jingoistic and unconditionally patriotic
institution that did not tolerate dissent even by the sports best. Alis treatment exposed a
clear pro-war ideology among boxing officials.
In February 1964, Ali won boxings most prestigious prize, the heavyweight
championship of the world. Despite being a tremendous underdog, Ali defeated reigning
champion Sonny Liston in a six-round technical knockout. Ali sensed the enormity of his

Arthur Daley, Day of Decision, New York Times, April 28, 1967, 47.
Clay changed his named to Muhammad Ali in February 1964. When discussing him before this period I
will use his birth name and when discussing him after I will use his chosen name. However, many
journalists quoted throughout this chapter defied the boxers wishes and continued to call him Clay long
after 1964. As I have not altered any source material both names appear throughout the chapter but do
indeed refer to the same man.
victory and began shouting, I am the greatest! I am the greatest! Im the king of the
world! Ive upset the world! Give me justice!
Ali never wore a mask and was always
outspoken. Ali was not afraid to admit that he was different from the African American
champions who came before him. He was not Joe Louis or Sugar Ray Robinson, who
after the attack on Pearl Harbor, voluntarily enlisted in the Army, participated in morale
boosting tours, and fought in military charity bouts over the duration of World War II.
Ali called these men Uncle Toms and pledged to be a different kind of champion.
asserted, people are always telling me what a good example I could set for my own
peopleIve heardhow come I couldnt be like Joe Louis and Sugar Ray. Well,
theyre gone now, and the black mans condition is just the same, aint it? Were still
catching hell.
Ali was determined to be different.
The morning after Ali defeated Sonny Liston, he announced that he had converted
to Islam and was a follower of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. Mike
Wallaces denigrating 1959 special report on the NOI, poetically titled The Hate that
Hate Produced, described the NOI as, a group of Negro dissenters, who were taking
to street-corner step ladders, church pulpits, sports arenas, and ballroom platforms across
the United States, to preach a gospel of hate that would set off a federal investigation if it
were preached by Southern whites.
While the NOI was labeled a black supremacist hate
group by city officials, state agencies, white liberals, and sober-minded Negroes, for

Thomas Hauser, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2006),
Larry Schwartz, More Info on Joe Louis, ESPN Classic, November 19, 2003, accessed September 28,
Hauser, Ali, 103.
The Hate that Hate Produced, Transcript, Columbia University, accessed November 2013,

Ali, it meant something entirely different.
Responding to criticism of the NOI, Ali
retorted, I believe in Allah and in peace. People brand us as a hate group. That is
not trueFollowers of Allah are the sweetest people in the world. All they want to do
is live in peace.
Boxing officials, fellow fighters, and the press continued to refer to Ali
as Clay, denying the legitimacy of Alis religious conversion. However, Muslim or
Christian, Clay or Ali, after the conversion the boxing establishment conceded Alis right
to pursue whichever faith he pleased and that it was ultimately unrelated to his profession
as a professional boxer. After converting to Islam, Ali successfully defended his title
twice and faced no opposition from the boxing establishment in doing so. Formal
repression came only after he started talking about the war in Vietnam.
While the story of Alis dissent and resistance against the United States
government is well documented and among the most well known stories in the history of
American sport, his struggle against the boxing establishment is often ignored. From
1966 until 1971, Ali faced intense discrimination from within organized boxing that went
far beyond punishments imposed by the government. It was the boxing establishment, not
the government, that exiled Ali from the ring and stripped him of his rightfully owned
title due to his stance on the war in Vietnam. By exploring this previously disregarded
element of Alis story, I am contributing to one of the most well known narratives in
American sport.
Unlike baseball and football, which both had centralized professional
organizations, boxings leadership was decentralized. There were two private governing
bodies: the more reputable World Boxing Association established in 1921 and the

Hauser, Ali, 82.
younger World Boxing Council established in 1963. While the WBA was the only private
domestic boxing institution, the WBC, based in Mexico, was created to ensure that a
world champion was truly recognized by the world. Thus, both groups had the authority
to recognize world champions and did not always act in sync with each other. In addition
to these two organizations, 48 states had their own athletic commissions, which also had
the ability to recognize champions. While most state commissions yielded this
recognition power to the WBA, the New York State Athletic Commission, the most
influential and respected of the boxing commissions, often acted independently. The
states that were not a part of the WBA were often in reciprocity agreements with
NYSAC, which caused the WBA and NYSAC to become rival institutions whose
recognitions bore equal weight. In addition to the recognition power, each state had the
distinct responsibility of providing a fighter with a license to fight in that state.
Fragmentation existed within organized boxing because of the existence of these
multiple authorities. Alis 1967 fight with Ernie Terrell exemplified the deep divisions
that existed and how the boxing authorities often disagreed with each other. Prior to his
fight with Ali, New York turned down Terrell when he applied for a license implying
that it was not yet satisfied that he had dissociated himself from alleged mobster
While New York would not allow Terrell to fight there, on February 3,
1966, Terrell applied to the Illinois Athletic Commission and was granted a license
inless than 30 seconds.
In this case the IAC was more accommodating because
Chicago wanted desperately to reclaim its place as a big-fight town, and nothing

Scorecard, Sports Illustrated, February 14, 1966,
nowhere is as big as a heavyweight championship fight.
While the fight received
approval in Chicago, there was disagreement on which fighter was the champion and
which was the challenger. After Ali became the heavyweight champion in 1964 he lost
WBA recognition because under W.B.A. rules Clay could not be recognized as
champion because he signed for a rematch for his first fight with Sonny Liston.

Despite Alis being the universally recognized champion and still recognized by the
WBC and NYSAC, the WBA considered Terrell as its champion. Thus, while the boxing
establishment was the WBA, WBC, NYSAC, and the other less influential state
commissions, these entities rarely acted in a united manner and the multiple powers that
governed the sport were clearly divided.
Despite this fragmentation, the entire boxing establishment was fundamentally
political. Famed sports journalist and friend of Ali, Howard Cosell, noted, the truth
about boxing commissions [is] theyre nothing but a bunch of politically appointed
Though they were supposedly autonomous, the fact that governors appointed
state commissioners made the commissions innately subservient to political and
governmental institutions. Though the WBA was a private body, as it depended on
cooperation from its member commissions in licensing fighters and recognizing
champions, it too was politicalized.
During the 1960s, organized boxing supported the Vietnam War. But while the
centralized football and baseball establishments had the ability to enact coherent pro-war
policies, eliminating dissent was the basic strategy of the decentralized boxing

Las Vegas Bout Upheld, New York Times, November 1, 1965, 64.
Hauser, Ali, 174.
On February 25, 1966, just a few weeks after the IAC proved its tolerance with
Terrell, Ali found himself in front of the same commission. The champion arrived with a
piece of tape covering his mouth, symbolic of the circumstance of the proceeding. Ali
was there to repent for something he had said earlier in the month. Due to the Armys
minimum intelligence standards being lowered, Clay was reclassified from 1-Y,
meaning not qualified under current standards to 1-A, meaning draft eligible.

According to New York Times reporter Robert Lipsyte, who was with Ali when he
learned about his reclassification:
The telephone started ringing; Associated Press, United Press
InternationalAs the afternoon went by, Ali got more and more agitated
and the questions from reporters kept coming.He was going crazy and it
went on like that for I dont know how many hours. Finally after the tenth
callWhat do you think about the Vietcong?Ali exploded. Man, I
aint got no quarrel with them Vietcong, And bang. There it was. That
was the headline. That was what the media wanted.

As Lipsyte indicated, the whole situation put Ali under tremendous stress, and it was only
when he began to break down that he uttered his infamous, initial commentary on the
Vietnam War. As David Zirin notes, it is critical to remember that when Ali commented
on the Vietcong, the antiwar movement was in its infancy and most of the country still
stood behind the war. Life magazines cover read, Vietnam the War Worth Winning, the
song Ballad of the Green Berets was climbing the charts, and standing against this
seemingly insurmountable tide was Ali.

When Ali was called before the IAC, it was to determine whether he would be
allowed to fight Terrell after his remarks. Illinois Governor Otto Kerner had labeled

Hauser, Ali, 143. He had failed the Armys mental aptitude test and thus prior to the regulations being
changed did not qualify for service.
Hauser, Ali, 144-145.
David Zirin, A Peoples History of Sports in the United States (New York: The New Press, 2008), 141-
Alis statement unpatriotic and disgusting, and IAC Chairman Joe Triner noted that if
Ali formally apologized to the commission, the fight would continue as planned.

However, Ali told the commission:
Im not here to make a showdown plea or apologize the way the press said
I wouldI came here because certain people would be hurt financially
over what I said, and you people were put on the spot before your
governor and other authorities. I dont have to apologize; Im not in

Ali also said he was sorry if he had hurt the mothers of boys in Vietnam and that he
was sorry he talked to newspapermen.
By refusing, in a stormy session before the
athletic commission, to retract his statements Ali shocked the commission. This was not
the apology hearing they had imagined.

Ironically, the state commission known for its relative leniency was the first
organization to exile Ali based on his opinion of the Vietnam War. In a 2-1 ruling, the
commission determined to revoke Alis license to fight in the state of Illinois based on a
violation of Paragraph 43 of the commissions rules. That section states, it shall be
within the province of the commission to refuse a license to or to suspend or revoke the
license of any contestant who is guilty of ungentlemanly conduct or actions detrimental
to the sport of boxing.
The IAC considered political dissent to be ungentlemanly
conduct and behavior detrimental to boxing. Reflecting on the political pressures
involved in the ruling, Sports Illustrated columnist William Furlong noted that the IAC
was clearly a less than august body suddenly caught up in the swirling crosscurrents of

Clay Plans to Apologize in Chicago for Remarks About Draft Classification, New York Times,
February 22, 1966, 17.
Hauser, Ali, 146.
Robert Lipsyte, Clay-Terrell Fight for Title Shifted to Louisville for Match 29, New York Times,
March 1, 1966, 30.
Clay Arrives for Apology Hearing, Chicago Tribune, February 25, 1966, C1.
subtleties concerning morality, legality and political expediency, not to mention 200%
old-fashioned patriotism.
Barring Ali because he engaged in political dissent against
the war in Vietnam clarified the commissions support of the war.
Compared to Terrells lenient treatment by the IAC, Alis expulsion revealed the
IACs biases. Exemplified by the Terrell situation, the IAC traditionally, enthusiastically
showered licenses on practically everybody in sight, without asking any embarrassing
questions ortaking a look at the state laws.
As it did not threaten the IACs jingoistic
values, the commission ignored Terrells proven association with organized crime rather
than calling it ungentlemanly conduct or behavior detrimental to the sport of
Though the initial purpose of the rule was to combat boxings long history of
fixed fights, mob connections, and general seediness, an actual criminal in Terrell was
favored over a political dissenter.
The IACs decision, and precedent it set, made it virtually impossible for Ali to
fight in the United States. From October 29, 1960, until Alis comments surrounding the
war, he had only fought one bout outside of the United States. It is no coincidence that
after the IAC prohibited the Chicago fight, Ali was forced to take his next three fights
outside his home country. Both the Kentucky and Pennsylvania State Athletic
Commissions refused to allow the Ali-Terrell fight and it was moved to Toronto. One of
Alis promoters, Robert Arum asserted, Toronto is a good place...but the proper place
was a major United States City. Some kind of mass hysteria was triggered that effectively

William Furlong, The Wind That Blew in Chicago Sports Illustrated, March 7, 1966,
Clay Arrives for Apology Hearing.
ran the fight out of the country.

Though the Ali-Terrell fight would take place abroad, several boxing
commissions acted to undermine the title bout. In California the commission urged its
licensed promoters to avoid any association with the. championship fight.
commission cited Alis extremely unpatriotic and selfish statements as the reason
behind this action.
Similarly, the Massachusetts Boxing Commission sent a telegram
to Gov. John A. Volpe and the leaders of the Legislature, urging a ban onbroadcasting
the fight.
When this tactic failed, citing Clays unpatriotic attitude as his reasoning,
commission chairman Edward Urbec pressured Sam Silverman, the licensee for the
Boston showing, not to show the fight. According to Ali biographer Thomas Hauser,
pressure applied by many of the commissions caused many of the theatres originally
interested in thetelecast [to] withdraw from the promotion.
Those decisions
diminished the financial incentive to go forward with the fight.
According to Arum,
Ali looked like dead merchandise in the United Statesthe only way we figured to
make money was to have him fight overseas.
Seeing that the fight would not draw
revenue, Terrell dropped out of the bout, and Ali and Terrell did not fight until February
1967. After Toronto, Ali retained his prized heavyweight championship but had to
schedule his next fights in England and Germany.
After three fights abroad, the backlash against Ali was finally quieting, but the
boxing establishment still had not forgiven its star. As Hauser asserted, in November of

Robert Lipsyte, Ring Body Meets Today on Switch, New York Times, March 3, 1966, 38.
Robert Lipsyte, Coast Backs Boycott, New York Times, March 10, 1966, 37.
Hauser, Ali, 147.
Hauser, Ali, 152.
1966.with interest in Ali running high, the champion readied for his next opponent
Cleveland Big Cat Williams.
35,460 people, the largest crowd ever for an indoor
boxing match, attended the fight, which took place at the Astrodome in Houston, and Ali
cruised to victory in his American homecoming.
Twelve weeks later, Ali finally fought
and defeated Terrell, also in Houston. As the universally recognized heavyweight
champion by the WBA, WBC, and NYSAC, it was clear that Ali was by far the best in
the sport. However, the same day that the WBA formally recognized Ali as the world
heavyweight champion, it declined to name himor anyone elsefor the Boxer of the
Year Award.
In explaining the decision, WBA ratings chairman Arch Hindman
explained, there was no boxer who could be considered outstanding both in and out of
the ring during the past year,
undoubtedly referring to Alis Vietcong comments.
April 28, 1967, was supposed to be the date of Alis induction into the Army and
the champion used the occasion to protest the war. In the prior weeks, the boxer asserted
he would not step forward to take the traditional Army oath of induction and would
remain motionless when the inductees were ordered to take a single step forward as a
signal of their assent to induction.
Moreover, in accordance with his religious beliefs
which forbade him from participating in war in any capacity, Ali rejected any idea of
serving as a non-combatant.
Instead, Ali stressed:
It would be no trouble for me to go into the Armed Services, boxing
exhibitions in Vietnam or traveling the country at the expense of the
Government or living the easy life and not having to get out in the mud
and fight and shoot. If it wasnt against my conscience to do it, I would

Hauser, Ali, 158.
WBA Again Recognizes Cassius Clay But Not as the Fighter of the Year, Washington Post, February
13, 1966, D2.
Clay Says He Will Not Step Forward to be Inducted on April 28, New York Times, April 21, 1967, 29.
easily do itI wouldnt go through all of this and lose the millions that I
gave up and my image with the American public I would say is
completely dead and ruinedI wouldnt jeopardize my life walking the
streets of the South and all of America with no bodyguard if I wasnt

Ali knew that the consequences for refusing induction were heavy: a $10,000 fine and up
to a five-year jail sentence, which was likely given his notoriety. As expected, Ali refused
induction and stated, I have searched my conscience and I find I cannot be true to my
beliefby accepting such a call.
While Ali had of course committed a felony, there
was no immediate government action. United States Attorney Morton Susman clarified,
it will take at least 30 days for Clay to be indicted and it probably will be another year
and half before he could be sent to prison since there will be undoubtedly be appeals
through the courts.

Despite the governments reluctance to prosecute Ali, boxing organizations acted
immediately and independently. The NYSAC acted first. In a statement issued just hours
after Alis decision became public, Edwin B. Dooley, chairman of the NYSAC,
announced it had unanimously decided to suspend [Clays] boxing license indefinitely
and to withdrawal recognition of him as world heavyweight champion.
rationalized the commissions punitive measure by stating, Clays refusal to enter the
service is regarded by the commission to be detrimental to the best interests of boxing.

According to NYSACs press secretary, Marvin Kohn, the governor didnt exert any
pressure in the matter. It was the three commissioners acting on their own.

Hauser, Ali, 154-155.
Robert Lipsyte, Clay Refuses Army Oath; Stripped of Boxing Crown, New York Times, April 29, 1967,
Thomas Rodgers, New York Lifts Crown in Swift Move, New York Times, April 29, 1967, 12.
Hauser, Ali, 173.
the WBA, which had historically disagreed with the NYSAC on a variety of issues, did
not hesitate to discipline Ali. Robert Evans, president of the WBA, declared, I feel that
Muhammad Ali has defied the laws of the United States regarding selective service. His
action today leaves me no alternative.
There was a clear alternative: to let the
American judicial process determine Alis guilt or innocence and only then render
judgment on the champion. Due to agreements that bound nearly every state commission
to either the WBA or NYSAC, every state followed suit and the title Ali had worked for
throughout his life was gone.
The WBC did not revoke its recognition of Ali until
1969, but the recognition of a young, foreign organization was meaningless on its own. In
response to the loss of his title, Ali proudly declared:
I have the world heavyweight title not because it was given to mebut
because I won it in the ring through my own boxing ability. Those who
want to take itnot only do me a disservice but actually disgrace
themselves. I am certain that sports fans and fair-minded people
throughout America would never accept such a title-holder.

After Ali had his title taken from him, he attempted to reclaim it. The WBA
allowed Ali an informal appeal, but simply used the procedure to demonstrate their
support of the war and disdain for Ali. Alis attorney, Hayden Covington asked the WBA
executive committee to use a sense of fair play and reinstate Ali as champion.

Rebuffing the associations argument that Alis championship was suspended on the
grounds that he allegedly committed a felony, not because he opposed the war,
Covington pleaded that Clays title be restored on the grounds that he has not been

Rodgers, New York Lifts Crown, 12.
Hauser, Ali, 172.
Lipsyte, Clay Refuses Army Oath, 1.
W.B.A. Refuses to Reinstate Clay as Champ, Chicago Tribune, June 11, 1967, C10.
convicted of criminal charges.
Yet in a prepared statement, written before the appeal
took place, the WBA announced, the executive committee finds the actions of Cassius
Clay (Muhammad Ali) to be detrimental to the best interest of boxing.
The WBA then
organized a tournament between the new top eight fighters in order to crown a new
champion. Ali was still undefeated and in his prime.
In attempting to reclaim recognition from the NYSAC, Ali enlisted the support of
some of the most prominent civil rights and civil liberties groups in the country: the
NYCLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Due to its status as a state sponsored
institution, Alis appeal against the NYSAC is representative of the black freedom
struggle that defined the decade. And the fact that boxing organizations were in public
combat with major civil rights and civil liberties groups shows that the latter considered
the conflict over Ali as an issue of national political importance, not a frivolous concern
to sports aficionados. A week after NYSAC rendered its judgment on Ali, Aryeh Neier,
Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, charged NYSAC with
committing an unprecedented and unprincipled action in stripping Ali of his world
heavyweight boxing championship.
In depriving Ali of his rightly earned title, Neier
perceptively noted, the commission has added the criterion of political and social
conformity to the time-honored test of physical proficiency.
Claiming that the NYSAC
deprived Ali of a valuable property right without due process of law,
Neier held that
NYSAC acted illegally. Dooley, the NYSAC chairman, retorted that they revoked Alis
license and title not because he violated the United States Selective Service statue, but

WBA Rejects Clays Appeal, Los Angeles Times, June 11, 1967, B7.
And to Complete the Report, Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1967, G2.
State Officials Assailed on Clay, New York Tines, May 4, 1967, 46.
And to Complete the Report, G2.
because by refusing to answer the call of his country, he dishonored a much higher law.

Dooleys ideology was so obvious that the New York Amsterdam News, an African
American newspaper, mockingly labeled Dooley as the Yankee Doodle Dandy
Regarding a potential appeal, Dooley condescended to Ali and affirmed he
expected to grant Clay a hearing just to please him.
Ali and Neier thus knew an appeal
would be futile and decided to challenge the NYSAC through other channels.
In October 1969, with the help of Neiers organization and the NAACP Legal
Defense Fund, Ali finally launched a lawsuit against the NYSAC. He alleged the
commission transgressed various provisions of the Federal Constitution in holding that
his conviction and sentence for refusal to service in the armed forces justified refusal of a
license to fight in the prize ring.
Rather than immediately challenge NYSAC in the
courts in 1967, Ali initially appealed to the federal government for conscientious objector
status. If he were a conscientious objector, then his decision to refuse induction would be
declared legal and the NYSAC would naturally reinstate him. While Ali was initially
convicted for criminally refusing induction and sentenced to five years in prison by a
Texas District Court in June 1967, by the summer of 1969, multiple courts had affirmed
this verdict. While Ali was appealing this latest judgment, based on the cases history it
seemed unlikely that a court would ever rule that his decision to refuse induction was
lawful. By fall 1969, Ali understood the time was right to allege that NYSAC acted
improperly regardless of the status of his pending conviction. On December 24, 1969, in
line with Alis countless judicial losses, Judge Marvin Frankel ruled in favor of the

Article 4, New York Amsterdam News, May 27, 1967, 35.
Robert Lipsyte, Clays Shadow Lurks Everywhere, New York Times, May 10, 1967, 81.
Ali v. Div. of State Athletic Comm'n of N.Y., 308 F. Supp. 11, (S.D.N.Y. 1969)
While Judge Frankel ruled against Ali, his verdict instructed Alis legal team on
how to proceed. Judge Frankel reasoned, the state commissionhas express statutory
power to make felony conviction grounds for refusing, suspending, or revoking a
The Judge referenced other areas where felons were excluded, such as voting
and practicing medicine, and insisted that Ali would only have a case if this exclusionary
power were applied unevenly. As such, Alis legal team began researching and what they
found was shocking. In NYSACs records, they found
at least 244 instances in recent years where it has granted, renewed or
reinstated boxing licenses to applicants who have been convicted of one or
more felonies, misdemeanors or military offenses involving moral
turpitude. Some 94 felons thus licensed include persons convicted for such
anti-social activities as second degree murder, burglary, armed robbery,
extortion, grand larceny, rape, sodomy, aggravated assault and battery,
embezzlement, arson and receiving stolen property. The misdemeanor
convictions, 135 in number, were for such offenses as petty larceny,
possession of narcotics, attempted rape, assault and battery, fraud,
impairing the morals of a minor, possession of burglar's tools, possession
of dangerous weapons, carrying concealed weapons, automobile theft and
promotion of gambling. The 15 military offenses include convictions or
dishonorable discharges for desertion from the Armed Forces of the
United States, assault upon an officer, burglary and larceny.

Based on these new findings, Ali amended his initially broad complaint against
the NYSAC and charged the commission with acting arbitrarily, capriciously and
invidiously in refusing to renew his professional boxer's license.
As the trial unfolded,
it was discovered that in addition to granting licenses to 244 criminals in the past, other
than Ali, there were no instances where licenses [were] denied by the Commission

Ali v. Div. of State Athletic Comm'n of N.Y., 316 F. Supp. 1246,1248 (S.D.N.Y. 1970)
because of an applicant's conviction.
The commission did not even try to act covertly
and granted licenses to 35 felons and misdemeanants in 1968 and 1969, subsequent to the
suspension of Alis.
Perhaps more than anything else, this information reveals the
commissions true pro-war ideology. Murderers, rapists, and other criminals of a far
greater degree had been, and continued to be, allowed to box in New York while Ali was
The difference between Ali and the 244 men who had been allowed to box was
simple; he was the heavyweight champion of the world and publicly opposed the
Vietnam War while they were not and did not. While these criminals were not prominent
enough to publicly offend the NYSACs nationalism and jingoism, Ali was. Labeling the
prosecutions newfound evidence startling, Walter Mansfield, the presiding judge, ruled
that the NYSAC had committed deliberate and arbitrary discriminationin the exercise
of regulatory power, and thus acted unconstitutionally.
As such, in September 1970,
Judge Mansfield concluding his opinion by stating, the harm to Ali cannot be measured
in damages. Accordingly his motion is granted and the defendants are enjoined from
denying him a license to box because of his conviction for refusal to serve in the Armed
Forces of the United States.
Judge Mansfield, who was appointed to the bench by
President Johnson and served in the Marine Corps during World War II, was able to
identify Dooley and the commissions true objectives.
Though he finally had his legal victory, Alis immediate boxing future remained
uncertain. Dooley was reluctant to accept the court order and warned, we will see if

there are any grounds for appeal.
The commission grudgingly conceded to Judge
Mansfields opinion. After a three and half year unlawful suspension, Ali was granted a
license to box in the State of New York. However the commission, still unsympathetic
towards Ali, noted that he would not be automatically reinstated as champion.
insisted that Ali had left boxing on his own accord and we cant give him back
something that he gave up.

While the NYSAC was forced to grant a license to Ali, the WBA refused to fully
recognize Alis return and kept him out of their rankings. Alis relicensing in New York,
combined with the fact that Georgia did not have its own state athletic commission, made
Atlanta the site for Alis return. Despite an emotional victory against Jerry Quarry in
Alis first fight in over three years, a WBA spokesman said the organization has no
plans to put Ali back in the rankings.
The WBA rated Quarry as the worlds third best
heavyweight boxer, and despite being defeated, he remained there while Ali remained
unranked. Similarly, despite defeating the WBAs second best boxer in his next fight, Ali
again remained unranked. WBA President Bill Brennan confirmed it was no accident that
Ali was being left out and stated he was opposed to any recognition of Clay

Having defeated the WBAs second and third ranked fighters in his first two
contests, Ali only had one man left to fight in order to complete his remarkable
comeback. Recognized as heavyweight champion of the world by the WBA, NYSAC,
and WBC, Joe Frazier was expected to be the most difficult opponent of Alis career.

Craig Whitney, 3-Year Ring Ban Declared Unfair, New York Times, September 15, 1970, 56.
State Will Grant Clay Ring License, New York Times, September 18, 1970, 52.
Alis Victory Wont Rate in WBA Rankings, Washington Post, October 31, 1970, D3.
WBA Picks Foreman, Chicago Daily Defender, September 13, 1971, 30.
Dubbed the fight of the century, it featured two undefeated fighters: Frazier, the
universally recognized champion, and Ali, still the lineal champion.
Despite the fact
that both fighters were African American, ones rooting interest in this fight told a great
deal about their values. Prior to the fight, Ali declared, any black person whos for Joe
Frazier is a traitorThe only people rooting for Joe Frazier are white people in suits,
Alabama sheriffs, and members of the Ku Klux Klan.
While Ali was being hyperbolic,
the white establishment, including organized boxing, strongly supported Frazier while
young people, who were against the Vietnam War and for the Civil Rights Movements,
as well as African Americans, strongly supported Ali. It was draft-dodger Ali versus
patriotic Joe. In the end, the boxing establishment had its victory. Considering the
numerous non-boxing defeats Ali had suffered over the previous four years, it was fitting
that in March 1971, Ali finally suffered his first professional boxing defeat.
Despite losing after fighting Frazier so closely, Ali clearly remained one of the
top fighters in the world. Nevertheless, the WBA continued to ignore him. Finally in May
1971, the WBA announced it had decided to withhold its ring rating of Muhammad Ali
until after the Supreme Court has rendered its decision on Alis legal status concerning
his draft case.
In a surprising and unanimous decision delivered by the Supreme Court,
citing a technicality, they reversed Alis conviction.
When asked to comment, WBA
President Brennan stated, My recommendation to the ratings committee will be that we
put Mr. Clay back in the No. 1 challenger slot.
However, Brennan also noted that

Lineal meaning he had defeated the previous champion and had never been beaten himself.
David Zirin, Muhammad Ali Handbook (London: MQ Publications, 2007), 224.

WBA Stalls on Alis Rating, Ignores Foster, Pittsburgh Courier, May 22, 1971, 16.
The technicality being that the Draft Board never specified why Ali was not worthy of conscientious
objector status.
WBA Chief Urges Ali be Ranked No. 1 Challenger for Title, Los Angles Times, June 29, 1971, D5.
there would be absolutely no apologiesI have no apologies to offer anyone.
the WBA shunned Ali for four years, even after NYSAC was forced to reinstate him,
Brennan saw no need to apologize. While the highest court in the land had exonerated
Ali, and by 1971 only 28% of the country still supported the war, Ali never received any
apology from either the WBA or NYSAC.

Prior to Alis decision to refuse induction, Arthur Daley of the New York Times
wrote, theres a tragic feeling here at what is about to happen to Cassius because hes
the heavyweight champion and therefore the worlds best fighter, his refusal to fight for
his country gets disproportionate emphasis and may produce ensuing ground swells of
unpredictable potency.
Daley was prophetic. Alis opposition to the war emboldened
the growing antiwar movement. According to Julian Bond, a prominent civil rights
activist with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee during the 1960s, when
Ali refused to take that symbolic step forward everyone knew about it moments later.
You could hear people talking about it on street corners. It was on everybodys lips.
People who had never thought about the warblack and whitebegan to think it
through because of Ali.
This is why the boxing establishment punished Ali so strongly
after he commented on the war and refused induction. They knew the power of Alis
voice, and would not allow his dissenting attitude to taint their politicized sport.

Public Opinion and the Vietnam War, Digital History, accessed August 1, 2013,
Daley, Day of Decision,47.
Zirin, History of Sports 148.
Sunday October 7, 2001 was a perfect day for football in Philadelphia and 65,000
fans were in attendance to watch the Arizona Cardinals take on the Philadelphia Eagles at
Veterans Stadium. Kickoff was scheduled to take place at one, but it did not. Instead,
President Bush appeared on the jumbotron and announced that the United States military
had began attacking Afghanistan, that the War on Terror had begun.
The crowd
immediately exploded in chants of U-S-A, U-S-A. Considering that professional sports
have continued to be an essential aspect of domestic mobilization, it is only fitting that
this war was announced just as many people were sitting down in front of their
television sets for their weekly dose of gridiron glory.

Just as the Vietnam experience tainted professional sports and transformed them
into little more than thinly veiled militaristic pep-rallies, the same has occurred during
Americas current war.
Describing the experience of attending a contemporary
professional sports game, journalist David Zirin wrote, a typical pro sports game
includes F-14 bombers buzzing the stadium, multiple national anthems, everything but a
mandatory loyalty oath and bombs bursting in air (although the fireworks come close).

While parallels are often made between the Vietnam War and the War on Terror, the
identical usage of professional sports as mechanism for selling each war is an important

Mike Fish, An American Tragedy: Pat Tillman Timeline, ESPN The Magazine, accessed November
R.W. Apple Jr., Home Front: Edgy Sunday, Nagging Uncertainty About Consequences, New York
Times, October 8, 2001, A1.
David Zirin, Whats My Name, Fool: Sports and Resistance in the United States (Chicago:
Haymarket Books, 2005), 138.
Zirin, Fool, 129.
Similarly to the Johnson and Nixon Administrations, the Bush Administration
recognized the potential of sports as a medium for garnering support for the War on
Terror. Such can be seen through the story of Pat Tillman, NFL player turned Army
Ranger. When Tillman decided to enlist in the United States Army in 2002, the Pentagon
was ecstatic and asked him to appear in Army videos and posters.
However, Tillman
steadfastly refused to participate in the administrations propaganda campaign, and his
story quickly faded into the next news cycle.
On April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman died.
While Tillmans family and the American public were told that he died in combat, the
Pentagon and Oval Office knew the truth, that he had been killed by friendly fire. The
governments deceptive message was designed to make Tillmans death heroic; as Zirin
argued, Pat died for the noble cause of PR.
The Bush administration used Tillman to
sell the war until 2007, when the truth about his death was finally exposed.
The various sporting establishments have strongly supported the War on Terror.
Indeed, Irving Berlins God Bless America is now universally played alongside Take
Me out to the Ballgame during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games and NFL
teams don camouflage gear each November. Dissent is virtually non-existent within
professional sports and dissenters face reprisals from team owners and league officials.
When the rare case of dissent does occur, athletes are treated no differently than Dave
Meggyesy or Jim Bouton were treated. In 2004, Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Carlos
Delgado gained notoriety for repeatedly staying in the dugout during God Bless
America. In an interview Delgado explained his reasoning: he opposed the war in Iraq,

David Zirin, A Peoples History of Sports in the United States (New York: The New Press, 2008), 254
Zirin, Sports, 155.
calling it the stupidest war ever.
After being traded to the New York Mets in 2005, and
meeting with his new teams management, Delgado ruefully stated, the Mets have a
policy that everybody should stand for God Bless America and I will be there. I will not
cause any distractions to the ball club.... Just call me Employee Number 21."
The Mets
ownership issued its own statement, declaring, hes going to have his own personal
views, which he's going to keep to himself.

* * *
The fact that professional sports continue to act as instruments of domestic
mobilization illuminates the importance of what happened during the Vietnam
War. During World War II, like many organizations, professional sports contributed to
the active American home front. Even as diminished products and at a financial loss due
to vast manpower shortages, during World War II, sports leagues strove to remain
operational to provide for the relaxation of the people in times of stress and worry.

Once the Vietnam War began escalating in 1965, it was clear that the robust home front
of the Second World War would not be replicated. Even most supporters of the war were
not going to grow Victory Gardens or outwardly act on their hawkish convictions. Yet,
the professional football, baseball, and boxing establishments did act on their pro-war
convictions and publicly supported the war in Vietnam. In professional football and
baseball, support for the war was demonstrated through the pro-war expressions and
demonstrations of the majority of league officers, team owners, and marquee players. In
all three sports this endemic support manifested itself through the punitive treatment of

David Zirin, The Silencing of Carlos Delgado, The Nation, December 7, 2005, accessed November
Football and America: World War II, Pro Football Hall of Fame, accessed February 2013,

dissenters. As the glaring exception to the relatively silent home front, professional sports
must be considered as a part of the domestic history of the Vietnam War.
Thus, though sports have always had some relationship with war, what was once
novel during Vietnam has become the norm in the present day. By failing to fully
recognize the extent in which professional sports and the war were intertwined, during
the Vietnam era, sports fans allowed their games to become co-opted by establishment
and conservative political forces. Rather than learn this history, sports fans have ignored
it. And during the War on Terror, another war with a quiet home front, professional
sports once again played its part.
Commenting on the relationship between sports and politics, David Zirin astutely
asserted, we can pretend sports isnt political just as well as we can pretend there is no
such thing as gravity.
But then Zirin continued, If we sit back and let political
messages be pumped throughit will be the death of us.
Considering the 58,220
American soldiers who tragically lost their lives in Vietnam, in many respects, this death
has already occurred.

Zirin, Sports, 268.
Statistical Information about Fatal Causalities of the Vietnam War, National Archives, accessed
August 2013, The NFL-
AFL merger was complete at this time so there were two separate leagues.
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