NFL players have responded to President Donald Trump’s offer to hear recommendations of people they believe deserve a presidential pardon.
On June 8, Trump had promised NFL players he would personally review their applications and pardon or commute the sentences of anyone he found to be “unfairly treated.”
On Thursday, nearly two weeks later, they responded in a New York Times op-ed entitled “N.F.L. Players to Trump: Here’s Whom You Should Pardon.”
But they didn’t send a single name to the president.
The essay was co-authored by a group of current and former NFL players: Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Benjamin Watson.
They started off by commending Trump for his pardon of Alice Johnson, but the praise was short lived.
“A handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that N.F.L. players have been protesting,” they wrote. “These are problems that our government has created, many of which occur at the local level. If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn’t been listening to us.”
The NFL players wrote that they were protesting “systemic racism” and that the president should use his power to make widespread change in the very foundation of the criminal justice system.
“President Trump could help,” they continued. “He could use his powers, including the clemency power, to make a real dent in the federal prison population. People like Alice Johnson, for example, should not be given de facto life sentences for nonviolent drug crimes in the first place. The president could stop that from happening by issuing a blanket pardon for people in that situation who have already served long sentences.”
While Trump has the power to issue widespread clemency, that is ill advised. Granting clemency is not an effective way to reform the criminal justice system.
The NFL players should be talking to Congress and to local state governments, those who write the penal code, for changes to sentencing and bail. They are voicing their criticisms at the wrong person.
Trump’s offer to grant pardons has merit, but he alone does not have the power for full criminal justice reform.
Even just one pardon is a victory for the NFL players, so I suggest they start coming up with a list.