Sinner or saint? Hero or draft-dodging villain? Race-conscious firebrand, or post-racial icon?
How about all of the above?
The death of Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer who battled Parkinson's Disease for decades, sparked an outpouring of grief and tributes all over the Internet. Countless celebrities and public figures—including the fallen fighter's daughters—took to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to honor the memory of the world-bestriding pugilist.
Yet as news of his death spread on Saturday, social media users issued a blizzard of punches and counter punches over the most controversial parts of the boxer's legacy. In particular, some pointed to Ali's inflammatory comments on racism and the possibility of racial reconcilation.
Although the honorifics far surpassed the negatives, Ali's incendiary remarks on race, patriotism and religion were hotly debated in a flurry of social media posts. They served as an undercurrent to the discussion over the boxer's legacy, which was once defined by the most controversial—his refusal to join the Selective Service during the Vietnam War.