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Over the past year or so, professional and college athletes alike have come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

This activism can be traced back to when Malcolm X pushed Muhammad Ali to change the way Black athletes engaged in civil rights politics. Their friendship was short-lived, powerful, and complex.

Their bond is explored in the new book, Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X.

An excerpt from the book reads:

“Under Malcolm’s tutelage, Ali embraced the world stage, emerging as an international symbol of Black pride and Black independence. Without Malcolm, Muhammad Ali would have never become the ‘king of the world.’”

Randy Roberts, author of Blood Brothers, joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to share some of his findings and thoughts about the friendship of two of the “largest profiled Black men in American history:” 

“When Cassius Clay at that time met Malcolm X in June of 1962, he couldn’t believe a Black man could be bold and say the things that he said.”

Roberts drew a direct parallel between the activism of the Civil Rights Movement and the present day movement for social justice, saying, “Doing this book and listening to what’s going on today, it seems to resonate with Black Lives Matter, with Beyonce — it’s all happened 60 years before.”

In Blood Brothers, Roberts presents the notion that no one has been able to figure Ali out, saying, “Trying to figure out who Muhammad Ali really is a parlor game.”

According to Roberts, in the Rome Olympics, “he’s a pitch man for the United States.” He added, “A Russian reporter asked him about racism in the United States and he (Cassius Clay) said, ‘Oh, don’t worry, we got people working on that. Yeah, it may be hard to find something to eat sometimes, but America is the best country in the world.’”

Roberts said, “He goes from that to suddenly he is the Louisville Lip, you remember, ‘I’m the greatest, I’m the champion of the world,’ and then he goes to, for a while, Cassius X and he is a follower of Malcolm X and then Muhammad Ali, a follower of Elijah Muhammad.”

Roberts explained Ali went through several major transformations within a short amount of time; he wore “four masks in four years.” 

Outspoken NewsOne Now panelist Cleo Manago said, Cassius Clay changed “from being a White accommodationist to a Black truth teller” after being influenced by Malcolm X.

The day after defeating Sonny Liston and capturing boxing’s Heavyweight Championship of the World on February 25th, 1964, Roberts explained Clay told reporters, “Look, I’m free to be who I want to be. I don’t have to be who you want me to be.”

Watch Roland Martin, Randy Roberts and the NewsOne Now panel discuss Blood Brothers in the video clip above.

From about Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X:

Based on previously untapped sources, from Malcolm’s personal papers to FBI records, Blood Brothersis the first book to offer an in-depth portrait of this complex bond. Acclaimed historians Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith reconstruct the worlds that shaped Malcolm and Clay, from the boxing arenas and mosques, to postwar New York and civil rights–era Miami. In an impressively detailed account, they reveal how Malcolm molded Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali, helping him become an international symbol of black pride and black independence. Yet when Malcolm was barred from the Nation for criticizing the philandering of its leader, Elijah Muhammad, Ali turned his back on Malcolm—a choice that tragically contributed to the latter’s assassination in February 1965.

Watch part two of the NewsOne Now discussion of Randy Roberts’ new book, Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X.

TV One’s NewsOne Now has moved to 7 A.M. ET, be sure to watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.

Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes. 


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“Blood Brothers:” New Book Examines Complex Friendship Between Muhammad Ali & Malcolm X  was originally published on