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Sportscaster Howard Cosell (Cohen), who brought elements of journalistic inquiry, skepticism, and intelligent opinion that transformed the cheerleading nature of his profession, died at 77 on this date in 1995. Before becoming a broadcaster, Cosell practiced law and represented Willie Mays, among other athletes, but then took to the airwaves and rose to prominence by reporting on the career of Cassius Clay, soon to rename himself Muhammad Ali. Unlike most other sportscasters, Cosell treated the controversial Ali with respect, called him by his name of choice, and supported his refusal to be inducted into the military. Cosell also supported other black athletes in their efforts to support the black liberation struggle, including the Olympic medal winners John Carlos and Tommie Smith, who gave a “black power salute” at the 1968 Olympics. While Cosell made his reputation as a boxing commentator, he ultimately was revolted by the sport and stopped reporting on any but Olympic matches. He was a key commentator during the 1972 Munich Olympics, as Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and then murdered Israeli athletes. In 1993, Cosell was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and in 1994 into the Television Hall of Fame.
“The importance that our society attaches to sport is incredible. After all, is football a game or a religion? The people of this country have allowed sports to get completely out of hand.” -Howard Cosell