NFL Players Respond to Trump: ‘Handful of Pardons Will Not Address’ Systemic Injustice

“These are problems that our government has created,” Players Coalition writes in NYT op-ed

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A group of NFL players — Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins, Doug Baldwin and Benjamin Watson — told President Donald Trump that his offer to pardon those who received unfair treatment by the justice system “will not address” the systemic injustice they have been protesting.

“A handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that N.F.L. players have been protesting,” they wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times. “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 quartet of players are all members of the Players Coalition, an advocacy group made up of former and current NFL players.

“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 mentioned Trump’s decision to pardon Alice Johnson, a 62-year-old woman who was serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense as an example. “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,” they said.

Earlier this month, Trump offered to meet with NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem to ask them who they think has been treated unfairly by the justice system.  “He could use his powers, including the clemency power, to make a real dent in the federal prison population,” the players said.

The relationship between Trump and the league’s players has been contentious in recent years, primarily over their decision to kneel during the national anthem as a way of protesting police brutality against minorities. Trump’s offer came weeks after he rescinded an invite to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, a customary invitation given to the NFL’s champion.

In addition to the NYT op-ed, other players including Torrey Smith, Chris Long and Rodney McLeod posted videos on Twitter directly addressing Trump.

Read the full piece in the NYT here.