Muhammad Ali played many roles over the course of a life that sadly ended yesterday. High on the list are that he was an iconic boxing champion and probably the first American Muslim to be really widely known. Last December, President Obama made a glancing reference to Ali and other famous Muslim athletes like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal in a speech about ISIS and national security.
That prompted one of the all-time weirdest Donald Trump tweets, in which he suggested that there were no such Muslim sports heroes.
Obama said in his speech that Muslims are our sports heroes. What sport is he talking about, and who? Is Obama profiling?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2015
In the speech, Obama directly took on Trump's notion that we should introduce formal religious discrimination into our immigration policy:
But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values, plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.
Obama mentioned the athletes because they are prominent, well-known, and easy-to-understand examples of how the talents of diverse individuals have made America stronger over the years. Trump couldn't refute the basic point, so he just decided there were no Muslim sports heroes.
Today, however, Trump is singing a different tune:
Muhammad Ali is dead at 74! A truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2016