"This is just another attempt to divert attention and, of course, it places Donald Trump as the master of everything, just appeal to me personally and I'll let your friends out or maybe I will pardon them", said Jeffrey Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. But a slight majority - 51 percent - said they still support the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand during the national anthem.
"I'm going to ask all [anthem protestors] to recommend to me...people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system..."
The president's comments came during an exchange with reporters at the White House before departing for the G-7 summit in Ontario.
One of the main reasons some National Football League players have been protesting is the topic of criminal justice reform, a topic that's also very important to Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.
He says he and a committee will review applications from the players and potentially pardon them.
The proposal won't go anywhere, which is exactly what Trump expects.
Trump lashed out on Twitter and disinvited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles from their scheduled visit to the White House over their position on the anthem.More news: Nadal, Del Potro set up semi-final blockbuster
Miami Dolphins players kneel during the national anthem before their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 13, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He's fired. He's fired!' " Trump said at the rally, according to Yahoo Sports.
Pardoning Ali, who was convicted of draft evasion for refusing induction into the Army during the Vietnam War, could similarly buoy Trump within the black community.
Goodell said teams whose players and personnel do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem will be fined by the league.
"I think we'll have the Caps, we'll see", Trump said, referring to the Washington Capitals, which clinched the Stanley Cup on Thursday night.
Kaepernick became the first player to sit and later kneel during the anthem as a way of protesting police brutality and racial injustice.
Trump's call for names of those perceived to have been mistreated by the justice system comes just days after the president commuted the prison sentence of Alice Johnson, a decision he made after meeting with reality star Kim Kardashian at the White House last week.