Trump says he'll ask protesting athletes for pardon referrals

Amid an ongoing dispute between the White House and professional sports teams over national anthem protests, President Trump on Friday said he was open to suggestions from athletes on potential pardon candidates.

“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. “We have a great country, you should stand for our national anthem. You shouldn’t go in a locker room when our national anthem is played."

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," he added.

The president spoke to a group of reporters as he departed the White House ahead of the G7 summit in Canada.

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Trump continued: “I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated … friends of theirs or people that they know about, and I’m going to take a look at those applications.”

And if it’s uncovered “that they’re unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out,” the president said.

Just days earlier, in a controversial move, the president rescinded an invitation to the Philadelphia Eagles to a White House celebration honoring their Super Bowl victory. At the time, he said the team was “unable” to attend because they disagreed with his belief that NFL players should “proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”

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Instead, the White House held an alternative event on Tuesday highlighting why Americans “stand for our national anthem.”

The same day, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, whose team is currently battling the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals, said whichever team won the championship would not want an invite to the White House.

Earlier this week, Trump commuted the sentence for Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, after a high-profile campaign for clemency by reality television star Kim Kardashian West.

Last week, Trump pardoned conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza and in May he posthumously pardoned former boxing heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. He also floated the idea of a pardon for Muhammad Ali on Friday.

Protests over the Star Spangled Banner started during the 2016-2017 NFL season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem as part of a protest against police brutality.

Fox News’ Alex Pappas, Adam Shaw, Nicole Darrah, and Kathleen Joyce contributed to this report.