WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump said on Friday (June 8) he was considering granting a posthumous pardon to late boxing great Muhammad Ali, who refused military service during the Vietnam War.
But Ali's family promptly replied that a pardon was not required.
Ali, who died in 2016, was convicted of draft evasion in 1967 and sentenced to five years in prison, but the conviction was overturned on appeal by the US Supreme Court in 1971.
Trump said Ali was one of some 3,000 people for whom he was considering a pardon because they "may have been treated unfairly".
"We have 3,000 names. We're looking at them. Of the 3,000 names, many of those names have been treated unfairly,"Trump told reporters at the White House as he was leaving for a G-7 summit in Canada.
"I'm thinking about Muhammad Ali. I'm thinking about that seriously. And some others and some folks whose have sentences that aren't fair."
The boxer's family said via their lawyer that a pardon was not needed.
“We appreciate President Trump’s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary. The US Supreme Court overturned the conviction of
Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision in 1971. There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed,” said Ron Tweel, a lawyer for the boxer’s estate and his widow, Lonnie.
Tweel, reached by telephone at his home in Virginia, said the White House had not contacted him or Lonnie Ali about a potential pardon.
He said he had been in contact with the widow after Trump’s comments and they decided to issue a statement on behalf of the family.
“We heard what he was contemplating and it needed a response,” he said.
It was unclear why Trump would consider a pardon, given that Ali’s conviction was overturned. The White House did not immediately comment on the lawyer’s statement.
Trump described Ali as "not very popular" at the time of his refusal to serve in the military during the Vietnam War.
But while controversial, Ali's resistance on grounds of conscience made him a hero of the US civil rights and anti-war movements during a highly polarised period in US history.
A charismatic champion who won his first world heavyweight title in 1964, Ali was banned from boxing for three years as a result of his conviction but went on to reclaim the championship in a stellar career that lived up to his boast of being "the Greatest."
Trump also said he would reach out to National Football League players who have been urging criminal justice reforms for their recommendations of people who have been treated unfairly.