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LeBron James donates $2.5 million to Smithsonian exhibit featuring Muhammad Ali

The Akron Beacon Journal • Nov 18, 2016 at 4:30 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- LeBron James is giving $2.5 million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture to support a special exhibit featuring Muhammad Ali.

The "Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change" exhibit, which opened in September, tells the story of how Ali's contributions transcended the world of sport.

"Every professional athlete, regardless of race and gender, owes a huge debt of gratitude to Muhammad Ali," James said in a prepared statement. "His legacy deserves to be studied and revered by every generation. I am honored to partner with the Smithsonian to celebrate one of the most influential figures in our nation's history who, along with Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens, used the power of sports to advance our civil rights."

James' business partner Maverick Carter also will be part of the contribution to the Ali exhibit. With the gift, the LeBron James Family Foundation and Carter will join the list of founding donors of the National Museum.

"I am overwhelmed by the incredible generosity LeBron James has shown to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and to Muhammad's legacy," Lonnie Ali, Ali's widow, said in a prepared statement. "This exhibit will enable children visiting the Smithsonian to learn more about Muhammad's work outside of the ring, particularly his humanitarian work and stance on social justice for all people. Thank you to LeBron James and the Smithsonian for making this possible. I know that if Muhammad was alive today he would be honored."

Ali died in June at age 74.

The collection showcases the heavyweight champion's headgear and training robe worn at Dundee's Fifth Street Gym. It also allows visitors to look at Ali not only for his athletic achievement, but also for his achievements in community activism, resistance, politics, spirituality and culture, the Smithsonian said.

"We are extremely grateful to LeBron James for his support of the museum," said Damion Thomas, curator of the Sports Gallery. "As the most socially active superstar in sports today, LeBron James is a testament to the influence of Muhammad Ali," Sports Gallery curator Damion Thomas said. "Ali embodied the racial and social tumult of his times, blurring lines between politics and sports, activism and entertainment."

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened Sept. 24 on the National Mall. The nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation's largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history.

For more information about the museum, visit www.nmaahc.si.edu.

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(c)2016 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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