Bakari Sellers blasts ex-Bush aide for ‘whitewashing’ Muhammad Ali to downplay history of athletic protest
Bakari Sellers (Photo: Screen capture)

As football team owners made headlines for joining their entire teams in taking a knee, CNN analyst Bakari Sellers took former Bush administration aide Paris Dennard to task for attempting to denigrate those protesting.


In an argument against athletes taking a knee, Dennard brought up an anecdote about famed boxer Muhammad Ali, who, legend has it, threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after returning home from the Olympics only to be denied service at a restaurant because of his race in Kentucky. Ali was justified in doing that, Dennard argued, because he "earned" the medal and threw it in protest on his own time.

Immediately, both Sellers and host Anderson Cooper pointed out one small detail Dennard missed -- that Ali was "despised" in the United States for his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War on moral grounds.

"We're not rewriting history," Sellers said, "we're literally whitewashing it history."

Ali, Sellers said, "was a despised figure" who got his boxer's belt stripped and "lost years of his prime" for his refusal to go to Vietnam.

"They took everything from Muhammad Ali," he continued," and he had to come and earn it back. He was not a beloved figure."

Sellers' takedown then took a personal turn.

"You know who else felt as if the Vietnam War was an unjust war?" Sellers asked Dennard, rhetorically. "My father, Cleveland Sellers. They took months away from his life, he was charged, tried and convicted and went to federal prison for that."

"There are people that paid an ultimate price," he concluded. "Do not tell me we are disrespecting our country because we're not. What we're trying to do is make it a more perfect union."

Watch Sellers and Cooper destroy Dennard's allusions to Muhammad Ali below, via CNN.