The death of Muhammad Ali has reignited a debate about the outspoken athlete’s legacy, particularly his famous refusal to be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.
Now, Rand Paul is getting in on the discussion.
Paul recently introduced an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would end the selective service, which forces men between the ages of 18-25 to register for a military draft that, while still technically in existence, hasn’t been enforced since the 1970s.
Now he wants to do it in Muhammad Ali’s honor.
Sen. Paul wrote in the Louisville Courier Journal, “In honor of Muhammad Ali’s life work, I will introduce the repeal of the draft as stand-alone legislation with his name on it.”
“He was a conscientious objector and practiced civil disobedience, a proud American tradition that runs from the Founding Fathers to Thoreau and all the way through Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ali’s own time,” said Paul.
“Ali said in 1975 that he would like to be remembered, ‘As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him and who helped as many of his people as he could – financially and also in their fight for freedom, justice and equality,” Paul added.
If Paul’s bill passes, it will essentially end the draft, officially making the United States dependent upon an on all-volunteer military, as has functionally been the case since 1973.
“One thing I liked about Muhammad Ali is that he would stand on principle even when it was unpopular,” said Paul, speaking to a slew of reporters in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky this week.
Tying Ali’s opposition to the draft to contemporary disparities, Paul said, “The criminal justice system I say now has a racial justice disparity, selective service had a racial disparity, because a lot of rich white kids either got a deferment or went to college or got out of the draft. I’m opposed to Selective Service.”
Paul’s standalone legislation is called ‘The Muhammad Ali Voluntary Service Act.’