In a recent letter (“No real champ at Lewiston bout of 1965,” May 31), Harry White labeled Muhammad Ali an “unpatriotic coward” who was motivated by fear and greed when refusing induction during the Vietnam War.

Apparently infuriated by Ali’s politics, the writer launched an ad hominem attack on his character, using exaggerated claims to construct a villain, even outrageously implying that Ali deserved to develop Parkinson’s disease because of his lack of patriotism.

It’s hard to imagine a coward agreeing to fight the likes of Joe Frazier and George Foreman, and equally difficult to envision a greedy coward undertaking the contentious protest that Ali did.

As a special inductee, Ali likely would have been given carefully selected, rather safe assignments and honorably discharged after two years to a life of fame and wealth.

Instead, he knowingly became a widely polarizing figure, stripped of his title, banned from boxing for four years, assigned a toxic commercial image and faced with physical threats, legal battles, financial hardship and possible jail. Greedy coward? Really?

White also claims that Ali was personally responsible for sending one more soldier to war, certifying his unpatriotic cowardice. More likely, however, Ali’s highly visible protests and publicity substantially bolstered a fledgling anti-war movement, shortening the war, saving lives and preventing even more names from appearing on the Vietnam memorial.

In 2005, this “unpatriotic coward” was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Republican George W. Bush, who cited Ali’s “deep commitment to equal justice and peace” and a “lifetime of achievement and principled service to mankind.”

Indeed, we should all visit the Vietnam memorial and contemplate war’s terrible toll, committing ourselves to honor those who died and those who served, and never forgetting that patriotism comes in many forms.

Steve Murphy