Half a century covering Muhammad Ali

In 1966, sportswriter Dave Kindred was a young reporter on the copy desk of the Louisville Courier-Journal in Kentucky.

“One day, one of the bosses came in and said, “Clay is in town. Go find him,” said Kindred. Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was a Louisville, Kentucky native. Two years before, Ali had won the world heavyweight championship at age 22.

“It was very easy to find Cassius Clay in Louisville,” recalls Kindred. “You just went to the west end of town and asked, ‘Anybody seen Cassius?'” After that first interview, explained Kindred, “I wrote about him then for the next 50 years.”

Throughout more than 300 interviews with the boxer, Dave Kindred said he was fond of Ali as a person. “I thought he was a sweetheart.”

Kindred says Ali was the greatest athlete he’s ever seen. “I’ve always said the two greatest heavyweight champions of all time were Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali because he was a different fighter. As Cassius Clay, you couldn’t catch him. As Muhammad Ali, you couldn’t hurt him,” Dave Kindred told 60 Minutes’ Jon Wertheim.

Muhammad Ali was a sportswriter’s dream, said Kindred, because, “he never shut up.”

Dave Kindred on activism in sports 01:08

Reflecting on Ali’s activism, Dave Kindred told 60 Minutes’ Wertheim, “I think all athletes have not only the right sometimes, but the duty to do that.”

But, said Kindred, “I don’t think Ali ever thought, ‘It’s my duty.’ Ali just couldn’t stop talking and enjoyed the celebrity of it. I think he enjoyed the attention it brought to him. I’m not sure Colin Kaepernick enjoys the attention it brought to him.”

Dave Kindred said he believes current athletes, such as Colin Kaepernick, “have just as much right and duty as citizens as anyone else,” to speak about and advocate for social issues. 

The video above were originally published on March 28, 2021.

Photo of Dave Kindred and Muhammad Ali together in a car courtesy of USA TODAY NETWORK