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Joe Namath Deferred

Joe Namath Deferred

December 9, 1965

Joe Namath Deferred
Defensive tackle Dave Costa (#63) delivers The Shot Heard Round the World” to Jets quarterback Joe Namath

The Vietnam War reverberated across all of American culture, including sports. Professional athletes and celebrities had famously left their sport or career to join the military. In World War II (and Korea) baseball’s Ted Williams. Elvis served when called.

By the mid-60s, many viewed the Vietnam War not just as an unnecessary American involvement in a Vietnamese civil war, but an immoral war. The “Domino Theory” — if we didn’t stop the spread Communism in Southeast Asia other countries would follow — was increasingly viewed as false.

The most famous athlete associated with the Vietnam War is Mohammed Ali. The new heavyweight champion argued that as a conscientious objector he could not fight. He said that he had no fight with the Vietnamese. It was here in his own country that he was treated as an inferior.

Joe Namath deferred
Mohammed Ali
Joe Namath Deferred

US Department of Army review

On March 20, 1964, the Army stated: “The Department of the Army has completed a review of Cassius Clay’s second pre-induction examination and has determined he is not qualified for induction into the Army under applicable standards.” The Army had given Ali a second test after it was determined that the results of his initial test were inconclusive. Ali’s response was, “I just said I’m the greatest. I never said I was the smartest.”

Joe Namath Deferred

Joe tested

More than a year later, on September 15, 1965 Joe Namath took his Army physical. Three months later, on December 9, 1965 the Draft Board classified Joe Namath 4F and ineligible for the draft.

Nevada Daily Mail December 9, 1965 >>> Namath 4F

Joe Namath Deferred

Ali re-evaluated

On February 12, 1966, the Louisville, KY draft board re-classified Muhammad Ali as 1-A. With the notion that Joe Namath’s knee issues would be a hazard to his fellow soldiers and that the Army didn’t have the proper medical for him that the NFL obviously did rang false with Ali and others. It is easy to see how Ali challenged the re-classification as politically motivated.

Deseret News, May 10, 1966 >>> Army Can’t Afford Joe Namath

Joe Namath Deferred

Joe in his own words

The good Lord works in strange ways. I failed three military physicals. The surgeon general had to read a report to Congress that I was 4F, because I was still playing pro football. The way he put it was that being in sports, you have doctors and trainers around the whole time. In the military, your comrades are counting on your performance and you don’t have doctors around you all the time. If something happens to a soldier, they are putting the other soldiers in jeopardy. I simply wasn’t fit for it. (entire AQ article)

Three years later, in 1969, Namath led his NY Jets to a Super Bowl championship and as happened to many famous people of that time, Ed Sullivan invited him to his show.

Ali continued to challenge his re-classification. In 1971, the Supreme Court’s 1971 decided in his favor.

Joe Namath Deferred

Ali back

And on October 30, 1974, Ali fought the reigning champion George Foreman in an outdoor arena in Kinshasa, Zaire. Known as the “Rumble in the Jungle.”  Ali defeated Foreman and after seven years reclaimed the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World.

By then, American involvement in the Vietnam war had ended.

Joe Namath Deferred