50 years later, paper apologizes for ignoring Ali's new name

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – For years after boxing great Cassius Clay adopted the Muslim faith and changed his name, his hometown paper refused to call him Muhammad Ali.
Fifty years later, The Courier-Journal, Louisville’s daily paper, apologized for continuing to call him Cassius Clay after he changed it in 1964. It did not consistently refer to him as Muhammad Ali until 1970.
Ali died June 3 and an estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of Louisville to say goodbye to the city’s most celebrated son during his funeral Friday.
FILE – In this Sept. 10, 1960, file photo, cheering students of Central High School surround Olympic boxing champion Cassius Clay, raising hand in center, and wearing Olypic medal, in Louisville, Ky. Boxing great Cassius Clay’s hometown newspaper, The Courier-Journal, refused to call him Muhammad Ali for years after he adopted the Muslim faith and changed his name.
Louisville’s daily paper has apologized 50 years later for continuing to refer to him as Cassius Clay for years after he converted in 1964. It did not consistently refer to him as Muhammad Ali until 1970. (The Courier-Journal via AP, File)
Executive Editor Neil Budde wrote Monday’s editorial that chronicled how the paper for years either ignored Ali’s preferred name or outright mocked it.
“We won’t even try to speculate what the motives of the editors in that era were,” he wrote. “The CJ was certainly an early champion of civil rights and desegregation. Yet we took what in today’s light is an oddly hostile approach on the specific issue of Ali’s name, which did little to help race relations in a turbulent time.
The paper was among many newspapers and magazines across the country that continued to call him Cassius Clay for years after he changed his name in keeping with his Islamic faith.
Budde said reporter Joe Gerth researched the newspaper’s history and editors debated the proper way to address it after Ali’s death, as a series of planned memorials and spontaneous celebrations consumed the city for a week. The editors decided to issue a belated apology.
He compared it to the Lexington Herald-Leader’s front-page clarification in 2004, in which the paper apologized for having failed 40 years earlier to properly cover the civil rights movement.

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