Trump to Ask NFL Players for Pardon, Commutation Recommendations

By Melanie Arter | June 8, 2018 | 10:35 AM EDT

President Donald Trump (Screenshot)

( - Before leaving the White House for the G7 Summit in Canada, President Donald Trump on Friday floated the idea of asking sports figures, particularly NFL players, for the names of people that were unfairly prosecuted, and he would consider pardoning them or commuting their sentences.

Trump also said he was thinking about pardoning the late Muhammad Ali.

“One thing we are thinking about, speaking about sports stars, the power to pardon is a beautiful thing. You gotta get it right. You gotta get the right thing. I am looking at Muhammad Ali, but those are the famous people, and in one way it’s easier, and people find it fascinating, but I want to do people that are unfairly treated like an Alice where she comes out and there’s something beautiful,” he said, referring to Alice Johnson, the non-violent 1st time drug offender, whose pardon was lobbied for by Kim Kardashian.

Pardoning Ali may not be necessary though. On June 28, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction for refusing to report for military duty during the Vietnam War in Clay v. United States. Ali’s attorney, Ron Tweel, released a statement on Friday, saying because of the court’s decision, a pardon is “unnecessary.”

"We appreciate President Trump's sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision in 1971. There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed," Tweel said in a statement.

Trump repeated his call for NFL athletes in particular to stand for the National Anthem.

“What I am thinking to do, you have a lot of people in the NFL in particular, but in sports leagues, they’re not proud enough to stand for our National Anthem. I don’t like that. What I’m going to do is, I’m going to say to them, instead of talk - it’s all talk, talk, talk. We have a great country,” Trump said.

“You should stand for our National Anthem. You shouldn’t go in a locker room when our National Anthem is played,” the president said.

“I am going to ask all of those people to recommend to me - because that’s what they’re protesting - people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system, and I understand that, and I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated - friends of theirs or people that they know about, and I’m going to take a look at those applications, and if I find and my committee finds that they were unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out,” Trump said.

When asked if the president would invite NFL players to the White House for a roundtable discussion on the issue, Trump said, “I don’t have to do that. I’m not looking to grandstand. We got enough grandstanders in this town. I’m just saying for the leagues, if they have people, if the players, if the athletes have friends of theirs or people that they know about that have been unfairly treated by the system, let me know.”

During Tuesday’s White House press briefing, American Urban Radio Network (AURN) White House Correspondent April Ryan asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether the president understands that the NFL players’ protest of the National Anthem was because of police-involved shootings and not disrespecting the flag.

Ryan also asked the president would commit to a roundtable with America’s athletes on topics of social injustice. Sanders said she’d be “happy to ask him.”

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