US President Donald Trump has said he may pardon the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, although he does not appear to need it.
Speaking to reporters as he left the White House, Mr Trump also said that for future acts of clemency he may seek recommendations from professional football players and other athletes who have protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
- Mr Trump said he is considering thousands of names for potential pardoning including Ali
- Ali refused to serve in the Vietnam War citing religious reasons after converting to Islam
- In 1971 the US Supreme Court reversed his conviction for resisting the draft
Mr Trump said that “instead of talk,” he is going to ask protesting players to suggest “people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system”.
He said football players had “seen a lot of abuse” and “a lot of unfairness” and he wanted their input on his use of this executive power.
Mr Trump said his team was “looking at literally thousands of names” of people for potential pardons because they were treated unfairly or their sentences were too long.
Ali is one name on this list, Mr Trump said, though it was not immediately clear why Ali would need a pardon because he has no criminal record. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction for resisting the draft in 1971.
Ali was born Cassius Clay, and changed his name after converting to Islam in the 1960s.
He refused to serve in the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs, declaring himself a conscientious objector.
“I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong,” Ali said.
Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967.
Ali’s legal fight ended in 1971, when the Supreme Court ruled in his favour, reversing his conviction on a technicality.
He regained the boxing title in 1974 and died in 2016.
Mr Trump has already granted a posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, more than 100 years after what many saw as his racially charged conviction.
Johnson was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury of violating the Mann Act for traveling with his white girlfriend. That law made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.
Earlier this week, Mr Trump commuted the life sentence of a woman whose cause was championed by celebrity Kim Kardashian West.
Ali was stripped of his heavy weight crown in 1967 after he refused to serve in Vietnam. (Reuters/Action Images)