The press conference was just as shocking to the three blacks as it was to everyone else. They had hoped to use it as a step in forming their own promotional group. They thought they had Ali primed for a vitriolic attack on Arum. They had arranged for Bob Cole, a public relations man for LSI, to write a press release for Ali, in which the champion was supposed to praise the trio while destroying Arum. But when Ali saw the release—which already had been distributed—he refused to read it. With good reason: when Ali retires, he and Arum have a pact to copromote a series of elimination bouts, and then to copromote four world heavyweight title fights.
So, rather than attacking Arum, Ali instead charged that the $1 million suit against Hubbard and Copelin—which the parties had already agreed to settle—was racially motivated against black enterprise. "Why are they picking on niggers?" was one typical Ali remark. "Why do only the big Jews and big shots make all the money? To Jews and white people, money is God. From what I've seen, this is a black-white thing."
After that it got worse. But as Ali's harangue wound down, he was asked about the specifics of the suit he was berating. Ali jerked a thumb in the direction of Hubbard, Copelin and Lewis, and said, "I can't tell you exactly...but they can."
With that, Ali and his $3.5 million share of the purse left New Orleans.
Dimaggio and Ciaccio, angrily demanding that Ali apologize for the attack against them, filed a $10 million suit for slander. In Chicago, Herbert Muhammad, Ali's manager, was outraged. "This is not a black-white thing," he said. "I am very sorry this happened. I know, in my heart and mind, Ali is not a racist."
Dimaggio and Ciaccio, however, said their lives and the lives of their families had been threatened since Ali's statement. They asked for and were given police protection. And on Thursday, from Chicago, Ali issued an apology.
Dimaggio and Ciaccio said that the apology was not nearly enough. The $10 million suit was not withdrawn. Dimaggio demanded a public apology in New Orleans. Ciaccio said he would settle for an apology from Ali on national TV.
Meanwhile, they are waiting for an audit of the fight, which probably won't be completed until well into next month. The FBI has tied up the records of Hubbard and Copelin for the time being.
On Thursday, Dimaggio and Ciaccio, with their attorney William Wessel, met with Copelin and Hubbard at the Bank of New Orleans. According to Dimaggio, the scene went like this:
Turning to Copelin, Ciaccio asked, "Where's all the money? In what banks, under what names, and what are the numbers of the accounts?"