In what he sees as a possible solution to the problem of NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem, Donald Trump says he will meet with protesting players and ask them to recommend someone whom they feel has been unfairly treated 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.
The proposal won’t go anywhere, which is exactly what Trump expects. His effort to “reach out” to protesting players may or may not be genuine, but it puts the protesting players on the defensive. Trump has made the first move. If the players, as expected, spurn his advance — and probably call him all sorts of names in the process — the players look small and petty while Trump looks large and magnanimous.
If there are any takers among NFL players, it is doubtful their suggestions would meet with Trump’s approval. Activists have been working for decades to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, who murdered a Philadelphia police officer. There has also been a longtime push in the black community to pardon Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Liberation Army, who was convicted of murdering a state trooper in 1978. Shakur later escaped and and fled to Cuba. Pardoning either of those murderers would enrage most Trump supporters.
It will be interesting to see how the players react to Trump’s proposal.