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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) announced today that LeBron James will give $2.5 million to support the museum and its presentation titled “Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change.” On view since the museum’s September opening, it tells the story of how Ali’s contributions transcended the world of sport—his commitment to challenging racial barriers helped lay the groundwork for the successful careers of so many African Americans in athletics and beyond.
James’ business partner Maverick Carter will also be part of the $2.5 million contribution to the Ali exhibit. With this gift, the LeBron James Family Foundation and Carter will join the list of founding donors for NMAAHC.
“Every professional athlete, regardless of race and gender, owes a huge debt of gratitude to Muhammad Ali,” James said. “His legacy deserves to be studied and revered by every generation. I am honored to partner with the Smithsonian to celebrate one of the most influential figures in our nation’s history who, along with Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens, used the power of sports to advance our civil rights.”
“I am overwhelmed by the incredible generosity LeBron James has shown to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and to Muhammad’s legacy,” said Lonnie Ali, Ali’s widow. “This exhibit will enable children visiting the Smithsonian to learn more about Muhammad’s work outside of the ring, particularly his humanitarian work and stance on social justice for all people. Thank you to LeBron James and the Smithsonian for making this possible. I know that if Muhammad was alive today he would be honored.”
The story of Ali spans both the Sports Gallery and the Making A Way Out of No Way Gallery. It includes collection highlights such as the heavyweight champion’s headgear and training robe worn at Dundee’s Fifth Street Gym. The exhibit allows visitors to look at Ali not only for his athletic achievement, but also for his achievements in community activism, resistance, politics, spirituality and culture.
“We are extremely grateful to LeBron James for his support of the museum,” said Damion Thomas, curator of the Sports Gallery. “As the most socially active superstar in sports today, LeBron James is a testament to the influence of Muhammad Ali. Ali embodied the racial and social tumult of his times, blurring lines between politics and sports, activism and entertainment.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, Ali offered unwavering critiques of racism, heightened the profile of the Nation of Islam and raised awareness of the Vietnam War. After his boxing career, Ali continued to work globally as a force for change as a social activist, cultural critic and humanitarian.
Ali is also featured in the Michael Jordan Game Changers Hall of the Sports Gallery, which looks at the contributions of athletes, community leaders and institutions whose actions changed their sport, transcended their game and transformed the country both on and off the field.
About the Museum
The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened Sept. 24 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument, the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit www.nmaahc.si.edu.
About The LeBron James Family Foundation
Recognizing the life-changing importance of education, The LeBron James Family Foundation invests its time, resources and attention in the kids of James’ hometown in Akron, Ohio. Through its Wheels for Education and Akron I PROMISE Network programs, the foundation serves more than 1,100 Akron-area students by providing them with the programs, support and mentors they need for success in school and beyond. In 2015, James partnered with the University of Akron to guarantee four-year college scholarships to all eligible students who graduate from high school and complete the criteria in the classroom and in the community.
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