President Trump reached out Friday to black athletes in his feud with them over protests during the national anthem, saying he’ll ask for recommendations from sports figures for pardoning people who have been treated unfairly by the justice system.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr. Trump said he wants to move beyond his “all talk” impasse with athletes about their duty to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He acknowledged publicly that the sports stars who kneel during the national anthem are protesting issues of perceived injustice in law enforcement.
“I am going to ask all those people to recommend to me, because that’s what they’re protesting, people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system — friends of theirs or people that they know about,” Mr. Trump said. “And I’m going to take a look at those applications. And if I find, and my committee finds that they’re unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out.”
The president’s comments came three days after he withdrew an invitation for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to come to the White House for a celebration of their championship. Few Eagles players were planning to attend, so Mr. Trump canceled the event, instead hosting a brief concert with patriotic music for invited fans.
No Eagles players had knelt in protest during the season, but many of them chose not to visit the White House due to the president’s ongoing feud with the NFL over players’ protests of inequality and injustice.
The president said he hasn’t changed his mind about players standing during the playing of the national anthem, and he also criticized a new NFL policy that will allow players to remain in the locker room during the anthem if they don’t want to stand on the sidelines.
“We have a great country and you should stand for our national anthem,” he said. “You shouldn’t go in the locker room when our national anthem is played.”
Mr. Trump issued a pardon based on a similar situation Wednesday. After petitions from reality TV star Kim Kardashian West on behalf of Alice Marie Johnson, the president commuted her life sentence for selling drugs.