June 7, 2016 9:53 am
Being a free black man is near impossible in the United States, even for a heavyweight champion who came as close to freedom as any black person ever could’ve dreamed.
In a capitalist country with over 500 billionaires, freedom in America isn’t about a predisposition, but a number. How free you are in the U.S. is directly connected to your bank account. And freedom requires not only capital, but human relationships with enough expertise to leverage both your capital and image.
Muhammad Ali inked a deal to sell 80% of his name and image licensing stake for $50 million dollars in 2006. Robert F. X. Sillerman, former chief executive of the entertainment company CKX, announced he’d bought a majority stake in Ali’s licensing in 2006, the New York Times reported.
CKX has made a name for itself by making superstars even richer through celebrity endorsements. The company specializes in acquiring brands of stars that are under-performing. For example, according to the Times, CKX also owns licensing for Elvis Presley.
Mr. Silverman said during an interview that acquiring licensing for both Ali and Presley were goals when he started the company.
“When you have the name, image and likeness of the most-recognized person on the planet, that’s the most important thing to have,” Mr. Sillerman said at the time.
Mr. Sillerman, a billionaire, retired from the company he founded in 2010.