Louisville to Rename Airport After Muhammad Ali
Though air travel once terrified Ali, he faced his fears to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
The Louisville Regional Airport Authority Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to rename the city's airport after "The Greatest" — Muhammad Ali. The new name is Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.
Ali was born with the heart of a champion in Louisville, K.Y., on Jan. 17, 1942. He began training as an amateur boxer when he was just 12 years old. The airport announcement came a day before he would have turned 77.
Though The Champ was fearless in the ring, he was outspoken about disliking "bad airplane flights."
"Never worry about fights ... only bad airplane flights. No fights," Ali once told boxing historian Jim Jacobs, in an interview.
But, in 1960, at age 18, Ali had to travel to San Francisco to qualify for the U.S. Olympics boxing team.
"You're going to have to fly, son, if you want to be a fighter, fly to places all over the world," his trainer, Dick Sadler, told him.
Though he took the flight to San Francisco, an experience with turbulence made him decide to take the train home. But like any great champion, in order to win, you have to face your fears. Ali flew to Rome for the Olympics, with convincing from his longtime boxing coach Joe Martin. He bought a parachute from an Army surplus store to wear on the plane, just in case. Ali went on to win the gold medal. International travel eventually became a part of his career.
Muhammad Ali's widow, Lonnie Ali, said, of the recent announcement, that she's proud of airport authority and the City of Louisville as changing the name will "reflect Muhammad's impact on the city and his love for his hometown."
"I am happy that visitors from far and wide who travel to Louisville will have another touch point to Muhammad and be reminded of his open and inclusive nature, which is reflective of our city," Ali said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Muhammad was a global citizen, but he never forgot the city that gave him his start. It is a fitting testament to his legacy."
The Airport Authority Board also authorized an agreement with Muhammad Ali Enterprises, LLC, for use of Ali's name. However, the airport's three-letter International Air Transport Association Location Identifier – SDF – will not change.
"It's important that we, as a city, further The Champ's legacy, and the airport renaming is a wonderful next step," Mayor Greg Fischer, said, in a statement.
The vote came after a recommendation from a board working-group that had studied renaming for more than a year.
"Certainly, Muhammad faced discrimination and the impact of inequality, and he wasn't shy about sharing his views on those challenges," Fischer said.
Ali was a professional boxer but also an activist and philanthropist.
"Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period," former President Barack Obama said, in a statement, at the time of Ali's death.
"'I am America,'" [Muhammad Ali] once declared. 'I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me — Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.'
"That's the Ali I came to know as I came of age — not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us.
"He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn't. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled and nearly send him to jail."
Ali died June 3, 2016 at a Phoenix, Arizona-area hospital. He was 74 years old. The boxing champion spent 32 years fighting Parkinson's disease.
"I've always loved basketball because it's about building a team that's equal to more than the sum of its parts," Obama tweeted.
It is well-known that former President Barack Obama is a basketball aficionado. From filling out his NCAA bracket to leading pick-up games at the White House, basketball has always been a part of the 44th president's life.
While some people coach high school when they retire, Obama is thinking global. On Saturday, the NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the launch of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), a joint effort of the NBA and International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Who is the go-to player for this project? None other than Obama.
He tweeted on Saturday about BAL:
I've always loved basketball because it's about building a team that's equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court. https://t.co/lghcLaUN9a
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 16, 2019
Obama will have a role with the league, but the extent of his involvement has yet to be announced.
BAL, the NBA's first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America, will be built on the foundation of current club competitions FIBA is organizing in Africa. The inaugural season will begin in 2020, and will feature squads from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
The NBA shared a video of Obama speaking to African basketball players about the importance of sports, then hitting a long-range 3-pointer.
"I hope you know through sport that if you put in effort you will be rewarded, I hope you learn through sport what it means to play as a team and that even if you are the best player your job is not just to show off but your job is to make your teammates better," Obama says.
For years, the NBA has fostered a program, with the assistance of FIBA in Africa, called Basketball Without Borders. This program grows the game by promoting and identifying young talent from all areas.
"The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa," said Commissioner Silver, in a statement. "Combined with our other programs on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa."
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Family and friends said the apology was insulting, and that Timothy Caughman's death was their "life sentence."
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Caughman's friends dismissed the apology, as fake.
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