Players respond to President Trump’s pardon recommendation request

Houston Texans players kneel during the singing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Earlier this month, President Trump addressed protests by NFL players by saying that they’ve seen “a lot of abuse” and unfairness before asking players to recommend names of people they would like to see considered for pardons.

Four players responded to that request in an Op-Ed for the New York Times published on Thursday. Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith and Saints tight end Benjamin Watson called the power to pardon “a valuable tool for redressing injustice” and commended the President for pardoning Alice Johnson from serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense.

They also write that a “handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that N.F.L. players have been protesting.”

“These injustices are so widespread as to seem practically written into our nation’s DNA. We must challenge these norms, investigate the reasons for their pervasiveness and fight with all we have to change them. That is what we, as football players, are trying to do with our activism.”

Using Johnson’s example and noting that 79,000 of roughly 185,000 federal prisoners are there for drug offenses, they suggest he could issue “a blanket pardon” for people given such sentences in nonviolent cases. They also point to the number of elderly people in the federal prison population — 28 percent by next year — and suggested releasing prisoners over 60 who are serving time for drug offenses that took place a long time ago.

They also make a call to end eliminate life without parole for nonviolent crimes on the federal level and point out that 30 percent of federal prisoners currently serving life without parole are there for nonviolent offenses as opposed to two percent on the state level.

“These changes, if President Trump were to make them, would positively affect the lives of thousands of people and have a lasting beneficial effect on many more people in the future. The president can implement these changes with his pardon power and other executive decisions. His ability to change the lives of people for the better is immense. We hope he uses it, not just for the few, but for the many.”

The players have also filmed videos for Twitter featuring many of the same points raised in their Op-Ed.