President Trump, who received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, said on Friday that he is considering issuing a pardon to legendary boxer and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali, whose conviction for refusing to be inducted was already overturned by the Supreme Court more than four decades ago.
- Trump did not elaborate on why he might pardon for Ali. He told reporters on Friday that he is thinking about pardoning someone who is “not very popular… I'm thinking about Muhammad Ali,” according to a pool report of the president’s remarks. (Ali, who was widely praised as one of the most admired athletes in history when he died in 2016, has previously received presidential medals from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.)
- A spokesman for the American Legion said the group had no position regarding Ali.
- In 1967, Ali was sentenced to five years in prison for evading the draft. “I aint got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” the boxer told reporters at the time. Ali was also banned from boxing for three years and lost his heavyweight title.
- Ali did not serve any prison time. In June 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that the Justice Department was wrong when it recommended that Ali did not meet the requirements to be classified as a conscientious objector.
- “It is indisputably clear, for the reasons stated, that the department was simply wrong as a matter of law in advising that the petitioner's beliefs were not religiously based and were not sincerely held,” the court ruled.
- An attorney for Ali's estate, Ron Tweel, told the Louisville Courier Journal that Ali did not need a presidential pardon because “there is no conviction from which a pardon is needed.” Tweel told the newspaper: “We appreciate President Trump's sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary.”