Muhammad Ali, Jr. Held Up at the Airport Again… After Speaking to Congress About His Last Detention

Last month Muhammad Ali, Jr. was detained at the border on his way back into the U.S. and reportedly questioned about his religion.

His mother was with him, and apparently since she was carrying a photo of herself with the late Muhammad Ali she was allowed to pass. Without his own ‘get out of Customs and Border Protection free photo’ he was subjected to greater scrutiny.

Mr. Mancini said then that Customs and Border Protection officials had asked Mr. Ali, “Where did you get your name from?” and, “Are you Muslim?”

Ali, Jr. spoke to Members of Congress about his experience. And leaving DC he was… detained at National airport.

Checking in to fly JetBlue from Washington National to Fort Lauderdale, he was told that his Illinois identification card (that he used flying to DC) was not acceptable as identification.

Almost immediately, Mr. Ali was told that there was a problem and that the agent needed to call the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Mancini said.

Mr. Ali, 44, was asked his date of birth, where he was born and his Social Security number, Mr. Mancini said. After answering the questions, he was told that his Illinois-issued identification card, which expires in 2019 but is not a driver’s license, was invalid for flying.

“The same state ID from Illinois that he traveled to Washington on was rejected,”

He was then subjected to a seven minute intimate pat down at the TSA checkpoint.

Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz was on the flight from DC to Fort Lauderdale with him.

He’d have had a much easier time, of course, if his father had kept the name Cassius Clay.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, you fly enough to know that:

    A) you need valid ID. Period. I’m a Washington resident and my state driver license isn’t Real ID so starting Jan next year I’ll need to use my passport or Global Entry card as travel ID.

    B) if you find yourself getting stopped for name mixups, you need to get a redress number.

    C) “here is a picture of my famous relative” shouldn’t be accepted AT ALL.

    There are rules — they might be stupid — but we all have to play by them.

  2. Detained?

    Evidence of “religious profiling”?

    Invalid ID and failed to remove his jewelry.

    Fake news, dutifully brought to you by View From the Left.

  3. Sounds like he is getting detained for an invalid ID, which he keeps displaying at airports in order to generate the political theater of deceitful religious profiling claims. Much like clock-boy, whose father sent him to school with a disassembled clock that looked like a timing device, and told him to be a pest in all his classes with it, until someone sent him to the principal.

    Gary, you state as fact:
    He’d have had a much easier time, of course, if his father had kept the name Cassius Clay.

    Do you have any evidence at all for this claim? Should Ali get a pass on the ID rules we all face at airports just because he has a famous name?

    I love your blog, but you cheapen your travel and points advice by mixing in politics.

  4. @pete

    A valid state id is good IL for flying. And saying “fake news” doesnt actually make real things false. But being an intolorant fuc#ing moron does mean you are both a moron and intolerant.

  5. From NY Times reporting…

    One day after Muhammad Ali Jr. spoke with members of Congress about being detained at a Florida airport last month, he was briefly stopped again before boarding a flight on Friday afternoon, his lawyer said.

    When Mr. Ali, whose father died last year, arrived at Reagan National Airport in Washington on Friday for a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he gave his Illinois identification card to a JetBlue agent to get his boarding pass, said his lawyer, Chris Mancini, who was traveling with him and witnessed the episode. Almost immediately, Mr. Ali was told that there was a problem and that the agent needed to call the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Mancini said.

    Mr. Ali, 44, was asked his date of birth, where he was born and his Social Security number, Mr. Mancini said. After answering the questions, he was told that his Illinois-issued identification card, which expires in 2019 but is not a driver’s license, was invalid for flying.

    “The same state ID from Illinois that he traveled to Washington on was rejected,” Mr. Mancini said in an interview on Friday night. Mr. Ali then produced his United States passport, which was accepted, and went through security and boarded the flight with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the second wife of Muhammad Ali, and Mr. Mancini.

    Mr. Mancini said that the episode lasted between 20 and 25 minutes. “This whole thing smacks of some sort of retaliation for his testimony,” he said.

    Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, was on the same flight, and posted about the episode on Twitter, saying that Mr. Ali had been “detained again.”

  6. I’m not a US citizen so I have no particular axe to grind on this but for me the article does beg the question “how long does it take to be “detained”? Seven minutes would not count as detention to me – rather just rigorousness. Now how individuals are selected for such rigour is another matter…

  7. Weird, my previous comment was removed. I wrote that NY Times reported that he was only questioned for a few minutes, and permitted to proceed after producing his passport.

    That said, Muhammed Ali is actually a very common Muslim name.

    Initial document presented was not a drivers license, but rather an Illinois issued ID, which is not compliant with REALID, but state has an extension and expects to eventually get a compliant ID.

    Other news reports do not mention any 7-minute patdown.

    Yes, he was delayed. Yes he eventually boarded after presetning his passport.

    Both Gary, as well as Ali’s lawyer are interested in throwing fuel on the whole ID/airport/border crossing controversy.

  8. @evan, the whole point is that he was profiled because of his religion, which is illegal according to the US constitution and one of the reasons why resident Trump’s travel ban was stopped by the courts. If he was white and named Smith it’s highly unlikely he would have been pulled aside.

  9. I have know idea who are these named mentioned. At one moment I thought he were the one just won best supporting actor at Oscar but he didn’t like him.

  10. Sorry… but the continuing mistreatment of Mr. Ali, and making excuses for it by halfway intelligent people, who are egged on by the Demagogue in Chief, is pathetic and dangerous. Just what Putin had in mind.

  11. The TSA has been pulling these stunts for many years, including during the 8 years of Obama’s Reign of Terror.

  12. Shaun – incorrect on the validity of the ID.

    And incorrect on the fake aspect – he was not detained, and he was not religiously profiled.

    But kudos on the mature ad hominem. Trump didn’t create the Left’s ugly hatred, he just exposed it.


  13. I think using the word “detain” creates unnecessary confusion, because people interpret it to mean something like “arrested’.

    However, what took place was not an “arrest” but a “delay”.

    I do sympathize with Mr Ali’s frustration at the moment—any traveler who has been stuck in a long screening would do so—but it does not help to misrepresent the experience as something it was not.

    That said, I am all for re-evaluating and reconsidering many of TSA’s policies and procedures.

  14. What’s going on here… has this kid spent his whole life thinking he’s entitled to break federal rules because he had a famous dad? His ID didn’t work once, so he thinks he’ll try it again & get a different result. Get a VALID ID and quit trying to be the center of attention. How about quit using an ID that airlines don’t accept, and just show your passport? Obviously this guy is a fame-whore and I don’t think low-class people like that are news-worthy.

    Kudos to the screening agents that stopped him both times. The U.S. is better protected when agents stop people with inappropriate ID’s. I normally love Gary, but I DO NOT SUPPORT this dramatic article whose only purpose is to make us hate the people that are trying to keep America safe.

    Low-class article about a dumb mistake a dumb guy made twice.

  15. Who actually gives a rat’s arse?

    Thousands of people get delayed going through TSA every day and now because you are a nobody who happens to be offspring of a has-been it’s news? Looks like the Whiny Little Bitch Club, with @Shaun as its president, is in recruiting overdrive.

    Oh, and @Shaun, I KNOW you. Now wouldn’t your parole officer be concerned that you are still using computers and even more so online innan environment where minors could be present? 😉

  16. So, has he every shown the i.d. to the press? Is it a State Issued i.d. from the Illinois DMV? If it is, then it should be acceptable. From the TSA website…
    Adult passengers 18 and over must show valid identification at the airport checkpoint in order to travel.

    Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)

    I know that there are State i.d. cards issued by DMV (or Registry of Motor Vehicles, etc.) and they look like a license, but may be rotated 90 degrees, etc. Now, why isn’t that acceptable? Or, is he using something else, not issued by the DMV?

  17. Did we time travel forward? Per the TSA web site, Illinois state issued ID is not REAL ID compliant but an extension permits it to be accepted until later this year.

    And as many have discussed before you do not require ID to fly, you just need to confirm your identity. But essentially it is up to the TSA officer and you many get an enhanced pat down.. I’d make sure my ID is valid to avoid the rubber glove.

    But back to the story.. sounds like many details are deliberately missing in an attempt to make it into a story.

  18. @ John. Suggest you watch Muhammad Ali deal with Floyd Patterson, who refused to call him by his new name.

    @ Lindy and Matthew and JC. Really. His “famous dad” was stripped of his right to do his job and thus stripped of his ability to earn an income because the US war machine doesn’t like it when individuals call them out on their BS. I don’t know how you earn your living, but imagine if the US govt. said you’ve got to go off and invade the UK. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Google Smedley Butler, who was in his time the most highly decorated US Marine general.

    It’s so easy for people who slide through security to throw darts at others who have problems. Walk a mile in a black or Muslim man’s shoes in America and you will be calling to make America great again. Meaning, returning to the time pre-9/11 where security was much less and it still worked. And where Muslims were not targeted for persecution.

  19. An Illinois State ID is just as valid as the Illinois DL I carry. Illinois must fix the issue in both of them by 2019, but those of you who believe that the ID is not valid need to come up with another excuse for him being detained

  20. I’m totally with Gary, as I perceive his take on it to be. Lots of people are willing to give up personal freedoms incrementally in the interest of false security, but I’m not. Gary has been in the forefront about identifying TSA excesses and I appreciate that.

    Tens of millions of Americans don’t have driver’s licenses, for many valid reasons – age, physical conditions, revocations, no need for a car where they live, and more. A picture ID issued by a legitimate state procedure should be sufficient, and evidently Ali’s was properly accepted the first time he showed it on the same trip.

    One detail – I don’t see anywhere that he actually testified before Congress. It looks as though he was in Washington as a kind of publicity feature for Democrats in Congress. But he has every right to do that.

  21. @Richard: Right, you don’t know what you are talking about. Clay lost his job so to speak because of that pesky little felony he committed. Like so many others have found, felony convictions tend to cause career and financial hiccups. There’s a price to pay for being a coward in the face of war.

  22. Stupid people, like the Rump supporters who come here, wouldn’t be able to so greatly affect our country if intelligent people would do their civic duty.

  23. Sorry to see trolls commenting here with their hideous rubbish.

    Someone who is the son of one of the most famous Americans (whom literally everyone in the country has heard of) should not be getting stopped regularly.

    TSA hopefully will get him a redress number after this latest incident — not least due to the fact that Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was on board the plane.

    The negative publicity generated by this sort of crap is having a YUUGE impact on tourism. Here in New York, which accounts for 1/3 of all tourist arrivals, bookings are way down. This crap isn’t making America safer again; it’s making America a country people don’t want to visit.

  24. To everyone who wants to argue the legality, or whether this is a “delay” versus a “stop” versus a “detention,” or whether an Illinois ID is valid:
    Please just stop.
    As to thoe who couch this in terms of a left/right debate, the problem with people who latch on to their politics as a means of concealing their unprincipled stupidity is that they impute it to those who point out their unprincipled stupidity.

  25. @Ex UA Plat —> 1) Every state issues Identification Cards in lieu of a Driver License. They might give one to someone who, for example, does not drive or to someone whose DL was suspended due to a DUI/DWI or too many traffic tickets or . . . or . . . or . . . . These state-issued IDs are LEGALLY VALID identification and meet all the necessarily standards required by state and Federal governments. They typically look exactly like a DL but — again, for example, the photograph may be on the right-side of the card rather than the left.

    2) Do not forget that is IL ID was a perfectly acceptable legal document to TSA for FLL-DCA, and I can guarantee the laws/regulations didn’t change overnight. And while — yes — some states have issued IDs which will not be acceptable IN THE FUTURE, they remain as of this writing legally valid travel docs.


    @Dave (NOT DaveS) —> This is simply DISGRACEFUL! You apparently choose not to see it. That’s your choice and you’re free to make it, but to say there is nothing happening here is simply wrong.


    @DaveS —> I agree completely, and while I think Gary *does* get “carried away” on certain topics from time-to-time, THIS is NOT one of them.


    @EVERYONE ELSE who feel like they have to bring election results into this and — worse — feel like they have to insult people who may think/feel/voted differently than themselves . . . GET THE **** OVER IT.

    The problem in the US today is NOT that we don’t all see eye-to-eye. We as a nation never have, and we never will. Indeed, that is a vital part of the fabric and strength of America. The problem is a lack of respect for those differing viewpoints and rudeness that results, making civil discourse impossible. And that not only saddens me, it weakens our nation.

  26. This can’t be a coincidence that this only happens to the black guy with the Muslim-sounding name.

  27. /\/\/\/\/\…it’s not that critical to have your interpretation of what I see and/or what I don’t see.

    Although irrelevant, in my humble opinion.

    I continue to enjoy Gary’s posts focused on air and hotel travel…..that’s all I care about in this blog.

  28. Some people don’t know anything about anything … or they don’t want to know anything . Ali was an
    inspiration and a hero to the world . At one time he was said to be the most well known man in the world .
    As for his draft resistance he was proven right . Over 50,000 Americans killed , for nothing .
    His son and daughter should get a pass , and respect , for the rest of their lives .

  29. @Roger: Clearly you are confused. Clay was a coward.

    Regardless, your idea that his kids should get “a pass” for the rest of their lives is retarded. With your logic, you being a pedophile means your kids should get kicked and spit on for the rest of their lives.

  30. Wow , JC generous with the insults . No Ali was not a coward . He was courageous enough to stand up for what he thought was right and he paid a steep price . In the end he was proven right .
    54,000 American dead and countless others seriously damaged . Estimates of up to 3 million Viet dead . What was accomplished ? NOTHING Nobody won that war .
    I went to that war and I lost good people . I think I have earned a more qualified outlook .If you want to talk draft dodgers here’s two names for the discussion : Dick Cheney and Donald Trump .
    Crawl back under your rock .

  31. @Roger: Proven right? Does it hurt when you think, Roger? The only thing proven was that Clay was a coward.

    If on your planet Clay was a hero, that means YOU were the coward for not doing what he did.

    Pick one.

  32. Clay/Ali believed in multiple things, one of them being not gracious for the opportunities he was given & a lack of drive to fight for others to get those opportunities. In hindsight, he appears to be a person who fought for himself but not for others. Of itself, that’s not a crime, it’s simple selfishness that we all possess. But in the face of a draft, it exceeds selfishness, it exceeds fear. It’s a crime. Clay/Ali pursued his OWN career, while brave men fought for others’. I don’t even care about Ali, let alone about his son who claims victim status based on his father’s name. His son sickens me.

  33. @Gary — For the Love of God, LOCK THIS DISCUSSION DOWN!

    [I’m going to unsubscribe from this thread as soon as I hit “Post Comment” below, and before I find out where some of these people live and hit them instead! ;^) ]

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