U.S. President Barack Obama will not be attending Muhammad Ali’s memorial Friday, the White House said, as he will be at his daughter Malia’s high school graduation, according to reports Wednesday.
The boxing legend died at the age of 74 last Friday in Phoenix. World leaders including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and King Abdullah of Jordan will be attending the memorial service in Ali’s hometown, Louisville, Kentucky.
The White House reportedly said that the Obamas will send a letter to the Ali family with White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett.
A spokesman for the Ali family, Bob Gunnell said that the president had spoken to Ali’s widow Lonnie Ali over the phone, BBC reported.
In a statement after Ali’s death, the president said that Ali would be remembered “not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us.”
“Muhammad Ali shook up the world,” Obama said, “And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.”
A traditional Muslim funeral will be held on Thursday at Freedom Hall, where Ali fought his last hometown fight defeating Willi Besmanoff. The service is open to the public with people scrambling to get tickets since Tuesday.
The coffin will be taken on a procession through Louisville on Friday and finally stop at the KFC Yum! Center.
Former President Bill Clinton and actor Billy Crystal are to speak at the memorial service. Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and actor Will Smith, who played Ali in the 2001 biopic "Ali," will be among the pallbearers.
The service will be broadcast live online for those unable to attend.