In a New York Times op-ed, four current and former football players said that pardons alone were not enough to fix the systemic flaws in the criminal justice system that athletes have been protesting by taking a knee during the national anthem.
“If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn’t been listening to us,” the athletes wrote.
Instead, they suggested that Trump issue a blanket pardon for incarcerated individuals who have already spent many years behind bars for nonviolent drug crimes, order the release of all drug offenders over age 60 “whose conviction is not recent,” and work to eliminate life without parole for nonviolent crimes.
“That would be the morally right thing to do,” they said.
The op-ed was written by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson and former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin. They are all members of the advocacy group Players Coalition.
The athletes commended the president for pardoning Alice Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. However, they said cases like Johnson’s were part of larger problems with the U.S. justice system.
They urged Trump and his administration to address issues of police brutality, educational inequality, and excessive sentencing and incarceration.
“His ability to change the lives of people for the better is immense,” they wrote. “We hope he uses it, not just for the few, but for the many.”
Trump was extremely critical of football players who protested police brutality and other injustices by kneeling during the national anthem this past season. In late May, the NFL announced a new rule that prohibits athletes from engaging in that particular demonstration ― a change that the president wholeheartedly supported.