After President Donald Trump pardoned a 63-year-old non-violent drug offender at the request of reality star Kim Kardashian, he looked to the NFL for additional pardoning suggestions.
It is no secret that Trump has been very critical of the NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. It seems that now Trump believes handing out pardons like lollipops is going to make them stop.
The players have finally responded, shutting down Trump’s misguided notion that his relationship with black athletes can be repaired by offering pardons while simultaneously giving him advice on how he should actually be using his pardoning power.
Players Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins, Doug Baldwin, and Benjamin Watson addressed Trump in an op-ed for The New York Times.
“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 current and former players who wrote the op-ed are members of the Players Coalition advocacy group through the NFL.
“The United States effectively uses prison to treat addiction, and you could argue it is also our largest mental-health provider,” the players continued. “Law enforcement has a responsibility to serve its communities, yet this responsibility has too often not met basic standards of accountability.”
The players explicitly addressed his pardon of Alice Johnson whose story caught the attention of Kardashian last year thanks to a viral Mic video detailing her story.
“Imagine how many more Alice Johnsons the president could pardon if he treated the issue like the systemic problem it is, rather than asking professional football players for a few cases,” the players wrote.
In addition to discussing Trump’s pardoning power, the players brought up policy changes Trump could implement that would help in resolving the mass incarceration issue.
“Apart from using the pardon power, there are policies the president and the attorney general could implement to help. For instance, they could eliminate life without parole for nonviolent offenses. Currently, more than half of those sentenced to die in federal prison are there for nonviolent offenses, and 30 percent of people sentenced to life (or de facto life) are there for nonviolent drug crimes. Compare that with the state level: Only 2 percent of those sentenced to life (or de facto life) are there for drug offenses,” they wrote.
Along with the poignant op-ed, other players, such as Torrey Smith, Chris Long, and Rodney McLeod, posted selfie videos on Twitter speaking to Trump directly.
.@realDonaldTrump because you asked... An op-ed from our @playercoalition and my more personal thoughts on pardoning a population, not just a few. Even if all these pardons were carried out, reform is needed. (THREAD) pic.twitter.com/2ghzR6sJj7— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) June 21, 2018
Sadly, their powerful message will likely fall on deaf ears as Trump has made it abundantly clear that he has no real interest in uplifting communities of color, which are the people most affected by systemic injustice and police brutality. Furthermore, he just hasn’t proven to have the empathetic capacity necessary for something like this to resonate.