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Activists urge Muhammad Ali not to toss pitch

7/13/2004

HOUSTON -- Civil rights activists are urging three-time
heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali not to throw the first pitch at
the All-Star Game, calling the opening ceremony a hypocritical
gesture.

Houston National Black United Front Chairman Kofi Taharka said a
decision by Ali not to throw the first pitch for Tuesday's Major
League Baseball game could highlight claimed racial inequities in
the nation's fourth largest city.

People for Justice, a coalition of Houston advocates and
organizations, planned a Tuesday afternoon protest against what it
called "the disrespect and negative socialization that
African-Americans have been subjected to by the power structure in
Houston that has no respect for the needs of black or poor
people," according to a prepared statement Monday.

Coalition members contend that Houston is not diverse and cited
a long list of concerns, from an Astros team that includes no black
players to activist Quanell X's arrest.

Many black people who voted for Houston's stadiums can't afford
to attend games and the 1960 Olympic medalist and boxing legend can
help point that out, the activists said.

"We are hopeful that he will hear the righteous cry," Taharka
told the Houston Chronicle in Tuesday's editions.

A telephone number for Ali's publicist was not listed. A
representative of Mayor Bill White did not return a telephone call
to The Associated Press early Tuesday.

The protest was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. EST. It was
expected to give the group a chance to "rise up and put some meat
in the saying 'If there is no justice, there is no peace,'" said
Taharka.