Two hours before Muhammad Ali’s death was announced to the world by his family, news that Ali had died was broken by none other than the Miami Marlins. No, seriously, I think.
At 10:05 p.m. ET, the only thing news organizations were reporting was that Ali’s condition was very serious. But moments after the Marlins lost 6-2 to the Mets, the team announced Ali’s death on the scoreboard to the 22,269 fans in attendance.
Without a report of Ali’s death in the gossip press—let alone from any mainstream, traditional news organization—this was an extremely strange decision, one that could have otherwise been chalked up to the Marlins being the Marlins. But reached by the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer after the game, Marlins president David Samson insisted there had been no error:
“It was not an error,” Marlins president David Samson said. “We were informed by someone close to the family that he had passed away. We wanted to get a tribute out as soon as we possibly could.”
The reason for the rush, according to Samson, was the perceived close ties between Ali and the organization:
“He’s an important part of our organization,” Samson said. “He opened our new ballpark. Being that he had thrown out the first pitch of this ballpark, and has a close relationship [with the Marlins], we wanted to honor him as quickly as possible. His legacy will live forever.”
According to the press release announcing his death, Ali died Friday evening. I suppose it is possible that the Marlins did indeed have inside information, and made the incredibly bold and strange decision that it was their urgent duty to announce it to the fans.