President Donald Trump said he wants to meet with NFL players and other athletes who kneel during the National Anthem so they can recommend people they think should be pardoned due to unfair treatment by the justice system.
“I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people who were unfairly treated,” Trump said at White House Friday. Trump’s contentious relationship with the NFL reached a peak last year when he lambasted players who took a knee during the National Anthem to protest institutionalized racism and police brutality.
“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,” Trump said Friday, also insisting that players should not remain in the locker room when the “Star Spangled Banner” is playing.
“What I’m going to do is, I’m going to say to them instead of talk … 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,” Trump said. “And I understand that.”
He added, “If the athletes have friends of theirs or people they know about that have been unfairly treated by the system, let me know.”
Trump called his presidential power to pardon people a “beautiful thing,” adding that “you got to get it right.” The President also floated a pardon for posthumous boxing great Muhammad Ali, though the athlete’s attorney said that is “unnecessary” because the Supreme Court overturned his previous conviction.
Trump’s war with NFL
Last year, Trump suggested to NFL owners that they “get that son of a bitch off the field right now” and fire players who don’t stand for the playing of the National Anthem, saying the act is unpatriotic and disrespectful to the US military.
Recently, the NFL implemented a new policy that teams could choose to require athletes in their arenas to stand during the playing of the anthem. It also gave players the option of remaining off the field, in the locker rooms, during the playing of the anthem if they choose not to stand for it.
A month after the league’s announcement of the new policy, which Trump supports, the President canceled a visit from the Philadelphia Eagles to celebrate their Super Bowl win at the White House, instead hosting a celebration of the National Anthem.
In a statement, Trump said the Eagles “disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem.”
The White House also canceled the visit because the number of Eagles players expected to attend was low.
No invites for Cavs or Warriors
On Friday, Trump said he won’t be asking basketball stars LeBron James and Stephen Curry or their respective teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, to the White House after the NBA Finals.
“I didn’t invite Lebron James and I didn’t invite Steph Curry. We’re not going to invite either team, but we have other teams that are coming,” Trump said.
Trump had rescinded the Warriors’ invitation to celebrate their 2017 championship win after Curry was critical of Trump.
But Trump boasted Friday of the other winning teams he’s welcomed to the White House in the past, including the New England Patriots. He is friendly with the team’s owner Robert Kraft and quarterback Tom Brady.
“I think we’ll have the Caps, we’ll see,” Trump said, referring to the Washington Capitals, which clinched the Stanley Cup Thursday night.
The President explained, “My attitude, if they want to be here, it’s the greatest place on earth, I’m here. If they don’t want to be here, I don’t want them.”