Trump says he will ask kneeling athletes to recommend people to pardon

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE said Friday that he would ask athletes who kneel during the national anthem to recommend people for him to pardon.

Trump has been highly critical of athletes kneeling in protest during "The Star-Spangled Banner," calling it disrespectful to the country. Earlier this week he disinvited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles from the White House over their differing stances on the protests.

“They’re not proud enough to stand for our national anthem, I don’t like that,” Trump said to reporters outside the White House on Friday, criticizing the protests as “talk, talk, talk.”

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However, he said, he plans to ask kneeling athletes to recommend “friends of theirs or people that they know about” who they think should be pardoned.

“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.

NFL players began kneeling during the anthem in the 2016 season to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

“I’m going to take a look at those applications,” Trump said. “If my committee finds that they’re unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out.”

In recent weeks, Trump has issued pardons or granted clemency to several people. This week, he commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 65-year-old great-grandmother serving a life sentence on a nonviolent drug charge, after a lobbying effort from reality star Kim Kardashian West.

Trump said Friday that he was considering pardoning the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali, although Ali's conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971 and President Carter pardoned all draft evaders in 1977.

He has come under fire for claiming that, while he has done nothing wrong, he has "the absolute right" to pardon himself as well, a claim he doubled down on Friday morning. 

Other subjects of Trump pardons include the late boxer Jack Johnson, conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, former Bush administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, ex-Navy sailor Kristian Saucier and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is running for Senate in Arizona.