My Experience Meeting “The Greatest”
Muhammad Ali’s death impacted me. However, it’s hard to discuss Muhammad Ali’s life and impact without someone pushing a narrative that serves their own agenda. When I write about Muhammad Ali, I write from my experience meeting him while working at Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal.
While working there, I met many celebrities including Michael Jackson, Don King, Mike Tyson and Smokey Robinson. Trump treated them as royalty. However, the most authentic of all of them was Muhammad Ali. He had this presence about him; it was as if you had a personal connection with him. It was the same feeling with Trump — people say awful things about him, but when you meet him in person, he can overwhelm you. You know he’s full of bluster, but he makes you feel like you’re the only one in the room.
I see Trump and Ali in the same light. I don’t know if they liked me, but I sure loved them. I wasn’t around to see Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson, and I was eight months old when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were shot. But, Ali and Trump have been in my living room since childhood. The first time I remember Ali was watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Howard Cosell was interviewing him. Here was this muscular Black man with a mini afro exuding confidence about what he was going to do to his opponent.
I remember my father hating Ali, but I secretly found him inspiring. He was an alternative to the Civil Rights peaceniks I grew up with. He was against welfare and believed in uplifting African Americans. He was militant, and when he whooped up on white opponents Chuck Wepner and Jerry Quarry, he made us feel not like victims, but victors.
Had African Americans followed his lead, the world would’ve been a better place. When his title was taken unfairly by the establishment, he didn’t cry. He went back into the ring, trained hard, and lost twice to Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. It took him almost four years before regaining the title from George Foreman. If anyone had a legitimate grievance, it was Ali. But he never grumbled and complained, he put his nose to the grindstone to overcome past injustices.
Although I’m a great fan of Ali, I find it disturbing that he is a hero of Progressives. Ali wasn’t a leftist in anyway shape or form. Ali was a Republican who supported Ronald Reagan and both Bushes. Ali was against interracial marriage. He believed in free markets and was disgusted by the “Where’s Mine” culture that permeated the black community.
Later, Ali broke away from Elijah Muhammad and became an Orthodox Muslim. He was a great humanitarian who worked behind the scenes in many diplomatic activities, such as releasing a reporter that was held captive in Iran.
The truth was that Ali was complex; he did good, but also wasn’t perfect. I think of Donald Trump as the white version of Ali: courageous, confident and fearless. The establishment fears Trump as they did Ali and Malcolm X. They feared them because when you came in contact with them, you were a changed man.
I don’t know if it’s for better or worse, but Donald Trump has that trait. He changes people who listen to him. My opinion was cemented long before he ran for president. I grew up in the tri-state area when that region of the U.S. was in the gutter. New York City was a mess before Trump arrived. The city went through multiple bankruptcies, crime and drug abuse were rampant and no one but Trump invested there.
When I hear media pundits say Trump is racist, it’s not true. Trump rebuilt New York for all his citizens, not just the white inhabitants. He promoted women and minorities and did fundraisers and charities for people of all persuasions without any fanfare. I personally saw the generous side of him in Atlantic City.
As with Ali, Trump rankles the feathers of the status quo. People feel uncomfortable when someone rocks the boat. They can’t handle Trump because he brought an Ali spirit and attitude to politics. He is doing to the establishment what Ali did to Liston and Foreman, defeating machines that people thought were invincible.
As during Ali’s period, a new Silent Majority has emerged. People who work for a living are “Mad as Hell” and are tired of the selfish culture that’s permeated our society and politics. Many people who consider themselves enlightened and Democratic are appalled by liberals that claim to be moral and righteous by burning American flags, taunting police officers, and pelting people with rocks and bottles at Trump rallies.
Donald Trump is right: America is like the child that keeps getting his lunch money stolen. We don’t win anymore, we need to bring some sanity back to this country. Like Ali, Trump will make America “The Greatest” again.