Side A: Players of the Cleveland Browns gathered eleven Black professional athletes and future mayor Carl Stokes to discuss with boxer Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942-June 3, 2016) his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War. After their private meeting on June 4, 1967, the twelve men decided to “support Ali on principle” and held a lengthy national press conference. The boxer, considered the “greatest heavyweight of all time,” garnered national scorn and paid a high price for his stance. Ali was arrested, found guilty of draft evasion, his passport confiscated, titles stripped, and U.S. boxing licenses suspended. The men in attendance also faced condemnation and threats. In 1971, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned Ali’s conviction. The Cleveland Ali Summit is considered “one of the most important civil rights acts in sports history.”
Side B: The Negro Industrial and Economic Union (NIEU) hosted the Ali Summit at its Cleveland headquarters on 10501 Euclid Avenue. Founded in 1966 by National Football League players for the Cleveland Browns and other Black professional athletes, the Union was formed as a self-help, entrepreneurial organization. Believing that economic self-sufficiency was the key to racial advancement, the NIEU promoted African American entrepreneurship as a means to “become involved in the economic infrastructure of America.” Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Union members developed training programs for Black workers, provided loans to Black businesses, and created job opportunities for young people. Promoting “Green Power” with its motto “Produce, Achieve, Prosper,” NIEU played a significant role in advancing Cleveland Civil Rights. Although best remembered for its role in the Ali Summit, the organization continues today as the national Black Economic Union (BEU).