NFL Players Respond to Trump’s Request for Pardon Recommendations

By Nancy Flory Published on June 25, 2018

Four NFL players have taken up President Trump’s challenge. 

On June 9, Trump asked players who had protested the national anthem to give him names of prisoners they believe have been “unfairly treated by the justice system.” 

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson replied to Trump via an op-ed in The New York Times.

Systemic Injustices

The group wrote that the injustices they protest are systemic. “(W)e see them daily: police brutality, unnecessary incarceration, excessive criminal sentencing, residential segregation and educational inequality.” They said if Trump thinks he could fix all of these things with a few names, then “he hasn’t been listening.”

While the athletes did commend Trump for commuting Alice Johnson’s sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, they said he can and should do more. “He could use his powers, including the clemency and pardon powers, to make a real dent in the federal prison population.”

What the NFL Players Recommend

The four proposed several practical moves Trump could make.

  • Blanket pardon for people who have committed nonviolent drug offenses who have already served long sentences.
  • Release any drug offender over 60 whose conviction is not recent.
  • Eliminate life without parole for nonviolent offenders.

The players said these changes would “positively affect the lives of thousands of people” and last long into the future.

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The men will continue to “challenge and encourage” Americans to recall that we’re here to treat each other with kindness and respect. “And we hope our elected officials will use their power to do the same.”

Jenkins also co-wrote an article for CNN with Torrey Smith, wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers. The two argued that a new bill in the Pennsylvania legislature, The Clean Slate Act, should be passed. Too many people have criminal pasts (albeit minor offenses) that keep them from getting a job or housing. The Clean Slate Act would wipe some offenses after 10 years. That way, “employers, landlords and schools wouldn’t be able to see these minor records. People who need opportunities would be judged by who they really are, not by their old mistakes.”

No White House Response Yet

Thus far, Trump has not responded to the players’ proposals. However, the President’s daughter and son-in-law, White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, are spearheading the administration’s bipartisan prison reform effort. 

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