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It is hard to feel sympathy for a man who refuses to serve his country, but the New York State Athletic Commission and the World Boxing Association did their best last week to make Muhammad Ali an underdog. Although Ali has yet to be arrested or charged, much less convicted, the New York commission suspended his boxing license and took away his heavyweight title minutes after he formally indicated he would not submit to induction. The WBA was more laggardly in doing its patriotic duty and getting its name in the papers. The Associated Press didn't move the WBA's statement until nearly four hours had elapsed.
Edwin B. Dooley, the chairman of the New York commission, said Ali's decision was "detrimental to the best interests of boxing," and this could be the case. But, although Dooley may have the authority to declare Ali's title vacant as far as New York is concerned, there was no need to act so intemperately. Boxing and New York would have been safe for the 30 to 60 days U.S. Attorney Morton Susman estimates it will take to prepare charges against Ali. The only ones who could get hurt by the delay are the ghoulish promoters, who hope to make a quick buck from elimination bouts to determine a new champion. Most regrettably, Ali's rights as a citizen, which the Government has so scrupulously safeguarded all these months, seem to have been violated. Of course, it's unlikely that either Dooley or M. Robert Evans, the president of the WBA, would have acted as they did if they felt that Ali was in any position to bring suit.
Boxing can afford to tolerate Ali the while. It cannot afford to play fast and loose with the principles and due processes of the law.
No sooner did Bill Bradley sign with the New York Knickerbockers last week than the press started updating the old myth that deep down he's plotting to be (check one) Governor of Missouri, U.S. Senator, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Secretary of State, President.
Indeed, Bradley is a very anomalous cat for the NBA—a banker's son, an Ivy Leaguer, a Rhodes scholar, a student of philosophy, politics and economics—but why not just take him for what he is, a young man of 23 who has decided to play ball for love and money? The money is about half a million dollars for four years. The love is for the game of basketball. Bradley simply wasn't satisfied working out alone in an Oxford gym imagining he was one-on-one with Oscar Robertson. He had to find out how he'd really do against the Big O or Jerry West.
First, on July 7, Bradley has to go into the Air Force for six months. However, during his last month of active duty he will be stationed at McGuire AFB in New Jersey, about 1� hours from Madison Square Garden, so he may be able to work out with the Knicks on weekends, and perhaps even get into a few home games before January. How will he do in the pro baskets? Can he become the instant star everyone expects him to be? Or will he be another Cazzie Russell? There are the questions to be pondered, not whether Bill Bradley is going to be President after Teddy Kennedy.
THAT'S USING YOUR HEAD
According to Pedro Mir, the matchmaker of the Miami jai alai fronton, when a jai alai ball, which is very hard, comes zinging off the front wall it may be going 150 mph. Understandably, if the ball hit a player on the head it could fracture his skull. Which is what happened last summer to Orbea, one of Mir's players, and, he says, the best frontman in the world. So, Mir and Assistant General Manager Buddy Berenson decided it was time to see a man about helmets.