Trump eyes pardon for late boxing hero Muhammad Ali

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US president Donald Trump has said he is thinking “very seriously” about pardoning Muhammad Ali – even though the US supreme court vacated the boxing champion’s conviction in 1971.

Speaking as he left the White House for the G7 summit in Canada, Mr Trump also said he is considering thousands of additional pardons, including one for the boxing great.

“I’m thinking about somebody that you all know very well. And he went through a lot. And he wasn’t very popular then,” Mr Trump said. “He certainly, his memory is very popular now.”

It was not immediately clear why Ali would need a pardon because he has no criminal record. The US supreme court overturned his conviction for resisting the draft in 1971. The White House did not immediately respond to questions about why the president feels one is warranted.

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is the most famous boxer of all time (Niall Carson/PA)

He was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967. Ali’s legal fight ended in 1971, when the Supreme Court ruled in his favour. He regained the boxing title in 1974 in the classic “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in the former Zaire against George Foreman. Ali died in 2016.

Earlier this week, Mr Trump commuted the life sentence of Alice Johnson, whose cause was championed by reality television star Kim Kardashian West.

Last month he granted a posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, more than 100 years after many saw as his racially charged conviction. Johnson was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury of violating the Mann Act for travelling with his white girlfriend. That law made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali died in 2016 (Julien Behal/PA)

He did not offer any other names, but said in response to a reporter’s question that OJ Simpson was not on the list.

The president has said he is considering commuting the sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who is serving 14 years in prison for corruption, and pardoning celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart, who served about five months on charges connected to an insider trading case.

“The power to pardon,” said Mr Trump, “is a beautiful thing.”

With regards to future acts of clemency, Mr Trump said he may seek the recommendations of professional American football players and other athletes who have protested against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.

“What I’m going to do is I’m going to say to them, instead of talk – it’s all talk, talk, 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,” he said.

“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.”

The president said the athletes have “seen a lot of abuse” and “a lot of unfairness” and that he wants their input on his use of this executive power.

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