President Trump, Here’s Whom You Should Pardon

Jun 21, 2018 · 416 comments
K. Mines (Woodstock, NY)
I'm 70 years old and Caucasio and brought up in New York City. Why isn't it obvious to everyone what these players are trying to say?? Trump can't hide his predjudice. The police violence against young black men is obvious. Just today another police shooting of a 17 yr. old who was just running away. Why are they shooting? Why are they shooting to kill?? When I was a teacher I stood up for the national anthem . BUT I did not sing it and I did not put my hand over my heart. That was my choice. Leave these players to protest however they feel. This is America although it is harder to tell each day.
Reno Domenico (Ukraine)
All props to Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Benjamin Watson .
Tom Jeff (Wilmington DE)
Thanks to the NYTimes for this honest presentation of the players' position, albiet many months overdue. Too long the liars have sought to make this about a song and whether bosses can and should control employee behavior. This is about a national epidemic of injustice, mostly white vs those of color in "The Land of the Free". To the liars freedom of speech is for TV hosts, not for professional employees. In my youth dissenters were branded as reds and commies. Now they are branded as unpatriotic, and the loudest voices shouting about them are the false patriots and chicken hawks in the last refuge of scoundrels. This all gives a whole new meaning to "Fly, Eagles, Fly." Thanks, MJ and friends.
Atheist Roo FM (Brooklyn )
It's interesting as none of these points center around race, hence it's accuracy.
Billy Baynew (.)
Very well written. It is a real shame that the president doesn't read.
Robert (Maryland)
Thank you, gentlemen!
ssgilp85 (Wolfeboro, NH)
Trump and his acolytes won't listen or just don't understand, and refuse to try. Or more likely, some do but see that it's far easier to play politics and pound the "base" with their foolish counter narritives for selfish purposes. Unfortunately Trump won't read this thoughtful essay, but that's okay. He's kind of an idiot anyway. So keep it up! The world is paying attention and the majority get it; we are all tuned in (maybe we got a little lazy? Democracy is hard work). This weird little glitch in our system will pass because of strong voices like yours!
JD (Houston Texas)
Trump: How about pardoning the 3 year olds crying for their mothers that you have locked away in detention centers?
Tim Lewis (Princeton, NJ)
While I believe that many sentences in this country are way too long, blanket clemency is not the answer. Consider the case of a heroin dealer who causes hundreds of persons to become addicts. These addicts likely commit thousands of crimes (many violent) to feed their addiction. Is such a person really deserving of leniency? As for life sentences, they are sometimes a substitute for a death sentence. Commuting a life sentence is not appropriate in such a case. What these players seem to ignore are the victims, many of whom are minorities. Why not ask the parents of a child killed in a drug related incident if leniency for the participants is the right thing to do? I would like to see black athletes condemn rappers who advocate the thug lifestyle. I would like to see black athletes encourage teenagers to complete their education and delay having children until marriage. All the ills of our society cannot be blamed on racism.
trblmkr (NYC)
The ignorance of people who shout "shut up and play" or some equivalent thereof is astounding and, yes, un-American.
Alan Einstoss (Pittsburgh PA)
oh lord do not revisit the Clinton ,Mark Rich debacle or any dangerous criminals our last savior let loose upon society.
jaco (Nevada)
I wonder what their issue will be next week? I thought it was all about the black lives matter and police shootings nonsense.
thomas (baton rouge)
well said
George Mitchell (San Jose)
Nice piece but one nit -- let's keep life without parole for treason.
Stephanie Bradley (Charleston, SC)
Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Benjamin Watson are to be commended for their stance, their articulate exposition, and their passionate commitment to justice. They have described concrete wrongs and offered practical solutions. All Trump can do is bluster, falsely, that kneeling is unpatriotic, call them SOBs, and play the race card. Sam Johnson was right: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
Marion Grace Merriweather (NC)
Bizarre that he's asking these guys to do his job for him. If he can't do his job and needs to outsource it while he personally profits from playing golf, perhaps it's time for him to find a new profession.
Sela (Seattle)
I love the NFL. I am a loyal customer. The NFL is a private business. If the employees of this company choose to disrespect national institutions, I not a happy customer. I will take my business elsewhere. If I see evidence these employees are actively involved in the inner city to reduce black on black murder, I might be supportive.
Gail Grassi (Oakland CA)
Thank you for your actions and for this excellent letter.
Eduardo (New Jersey)
Please keep pressing these issues. And yes, Thank you Doug, Anquan, Malcolm and Benjamin.
Jennie (WA)
I'd like to see a pardon for all immigrants for any charges of border crossing, that would fix the family separation problem.
Maurice S. Thompson (West Bloomfield, MI)
Couldn't agree more with what you guys have written. Now I'd like to ask all NFL players to do the country a huge favor. I know it's asking a lot, but here goes nothing. The President, in collusion with the NFL owners and apart from the player's union, has painted himself into a teeny-tiny corner by demanding that none of you guys kneel OR stay in the locker room("Just as BAD!") during said kneeling. I realize the owners have all the money, but I truly believe the players have all the power to change things. This is your big chance to exercise your First Amendment rights: GAME ONE -- Every player on every team needs to stay in the locker room. Not just for the anthem. I'm talking about the entire game. If there are those players who don't feel financially equipped to miss a game check, let the fans start a Go Fund Me page. I'm dead serious. If we let this wannabe dictator strip us of our rights to free speech it WILL NEVER STOP. In the past week this megalomaniac has shown everyone his true colors by caging innocent kids and ripping them from their mothers' arms. Sit out that first game and see how long it takes these modern-day plantation owners to punt. My guess? Not long!
stephen (truckee)
Trump's request for a list of names places him in the role of king. Instead of reliable laws and policies, he single handedly would make the thumbs up / thumbs down decision on each individual's fate based on his opinion on the matter. Sounds about as unAmerican as it gets, and to call his judgement questionable would be far too kind.
Y. Lord (NYC)
So proud. A well reasoned argument. We need so many more clear minded people like yourselves who refuse to be distracted by the Trump chaos. You have completely kept your focus and maturity, which is absolutely essential in these troubling times. I couldn't agree with you more. Good on you all!
Clyde (North Carolina)
Trump asked the players for the names of those they'd like to see pardoned. I'd suggest the Players Coalition submit one name: Colin Kaepernick.
R Ho (Plainfield, IN)
The offer to meet with the players is, in itself, an admission that the players have a point in their protest.
heyomania (pa)
lawbreakers should serve out their full sentences. drug offenders (dealers) will, as per recidivism statistics, return to a profession yielding a lucrative income stream, unless deterred by age or the prospect of a lengthier sentence upon arrest and conviction. Releasing offenders is not a solution to criminal conduct. Jail, and the prospect of jail, the certainty of lengthy sentences, will incapacitate that stratum of our population whose jollies lie in criminal activity.
allen (san diego)
rather than showing disrespect for the flag by kneeling athletes are demonstrating their commitment to the principals that it represents. there is an enormous problem with the criminal justice system that has its roots in the racist history of the country. the criminal justice system has been used for decades to control and suppress minorities. in particular the criminalization of drugs and the unequal application of penalties has been used by the white majority to supplement and replace jim crow laws that had the same purpose. in addition the lethal use of force by police against minorities has taken the place of lynchings. we would not know about the extent of police killings were it not for the now ubiquitous smart phone camera. its a certainty that these killings have gone on largely unnoticed for decades with the death toll in the thousands. athletes should continue their protests and hopefully pardons can be arranged for the vast numbers of minorities in prison for drug crimes.
Peter (NYC)
I generally agree with the opinion but I'm skeptical that the President has the power to use blanket pardons to override federal sentencing statutes.
Allan H. (New York, NY)
It's a deal: you immensely wealthy football players pay for medical care for the hundreds of thousands damaged by the drugs sold by these dealers and they come out. Otherwise, guess what: drug dealing is not a victimless crime.
Compassion Needed (NYC)
President Trump doesn't really care about what is morally or ethically right. The mere thought of elderly people (probably mostly men of color) dying in prison for non-violent, drug offenses is heartbreaking. Change could happen on so many levels (all mentioned in the article) - clemency to non-violent drug offenders, changes in housing segregation, educational inequality, etc .... however, prisons create jobs! Housing segregation keeps people of color where they are suppose to be (I am being sarcastic), as does educational inequality. I'm sorry that you invested your time in writing such a sincere and appropriate article, but the President doesn't really care.
Max de Winter (SoHo NYC)
Finally the players are using their heads instead of their emotions. Whatever you may think about our President, we have learned that if you attack him you will get nothing in return even if your right. If you play to his benevolence and placate him he will play the savior. The players are learning this hopefully and it's going to help their cause. Trump is going to be around another couple of years and maybe four more after that so pick your fights intelligently
All fine and good, except that you forfeit your right to protest and keep your job while on your employer's clock. On the field, your job is to knock into other refrigerator-sized humans and entertain me, no more, no less.
Ben Hershberg (Louisville)
HOORAY!!! I hope the president listens.
Jeff Gundy (Ohio)
Thanks for this message! I (and millions of others) appreciate NFL players speaking out for justice, and against the racism that is all too apparent in America--including in the current administration.
david x (new haven ct)
I don't care much for American football and the dangers it inevitably brings to the players. But I have come to admire the players themselves. Thank you for standing up...or kneeling, as the case may be. Your cause is right, and you inspire the rest of us.
Steve Fankuchen (Oakland, CA)
Perhaps our biggest problem regarding criminal activity is that we have no consensus or even a national conversation on the purpose of our treatment of perpetrators. All one has to do is look at the names of institutions used to incarcerate people to get a sense of the problem: San Quentin Prison, Deuel Vocational Institute, California Men's Colony, California Correctional Institution, Sierra Conservation Center, California Rehabilitation Center, and California Institution for Women. And this is just a partial listing in one state. Punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence, vengeance, justice: what is it we want to accomplish? Unless and until we develope a consensus about purpose, we will be incapable of developing appropriate methods to achieve those purposes.
Mark (MA)
"We are citizens who embrace the values of empathy, integrity and justice," I'm all for reducing unnecessary incarceration. But I'm not for opening the flood gates so that graduates of the largest criminal training organization in the world, the American penal system, can run free to recreate their previous endeavors. The statistics are overwhelming. Some 75% of those released have been re-arrested within 5 years. That's not a trivial thing. Also, I wonder who amongst these authors have been a victim of a serious crime? And I'm talking about a real crime, not being offended by something they have read or heard.
woofer (Seattle)
"Imagine how many more ...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." Trump has no interest in pardoning people to fix a systemic problem. He in fact has no interest in systemic problems of any kind. Rather, except as may be related to persons targeted by the Russia investigation (a separate and discrete issue), he is focused on the favorable media publicity attendant to each individual pardon that he issues. How will it play on Fox News? That's the concern. Each pardon is to be seen as an exercise in Royal Mercy conferred by a wise and benevolent monarch. By its nature this can only be an occasional event, otherwise it will lose its media impact. Plus, let's be realistic. The Republican Party represents an almost exclusively white constituency, one that knows that it is losing the long term demographic battle. For years it has employed various legal devices to thwart the electoral effect of non-white voters. Direct actions include disenfranchising minority voters through gerrymandering legislative districts and making it more difficult for such individuals to exercise their franchise. Harsh criminalization of minor drug abuse is another such tool. It is good that NFL players are keeping these egregious practices in the public eye, but no change will occur so long as the GOP is in power -- and surely not while Jeff Sessions is running the Justice Department.
MJS (Savannah area, GA)
This would have more impact if these athletes were actually volunteering in these federal prisons and working with these prisoners who they say deserve reduced sentences and/or clemency. That would carry much more impact than a drive by affiliation to a cause many can't seem to clearly articulate.
Steph T (Phoenix)
In what way is volunteering in prisons more impactful than what they are doing now? Could you give an example of how they've been inarticulate?
JD (Houston Texas)
Perhaps you should research all the things athletes like Malcolm Jenkins actually DO and have done before making snarky comments like this.
Carolyn C (San Diego)
Wow and THANKS! What group is taking up this agenda with federal lawmakers and candidates? Additional support systems would be needed, especially to ensure the elderly weren't dumped and that others are better treated than we do now.
Paul (Phoenix, AZ)
Trump will read this and say: "Yeah, but if you don't stand for the anthem you are animals infesting our country."
ChesBay (Maryland)
Paul--Even if you're a citizen, he want to deport you. And, some citizens HAVE been arrested by ICE. Those guys just LOVE their jobs.
Lyse Chartrand (Gatineau, Quebec, Canada)
Bravo, this is what real men are!
toomuchrhetoric (Muncie, IN)
Trump is an abomination of cruel stupidity. Anybody who supports him is the same. Not my president.
curt hill (el sobrante, ca)
Thank you for this thoughtful expression and request into the systemic injustice embedded in our "justice" system. I applaud each of you (and the scores other professional athletes) for using your elevated platform to speak loudly and clearly.
Traveler (Seattle)
Thank you Doug Baldwin, et. al. Thank you for such a reasoned, and reasonable, statement. Even if D.T. pays it no mind, at least it is out there for all to see. Thank you for your humanity.
Steve (East Coast)
Unfortunately, no president can pardon the people who's lives were taken by police brutality, and misuse of deadly force. You can't pardon dead people, but we can fight for them, and continue to protest by not standing for a nationalistic anthem.
greedco (Huntington, N.Y.)
Alice Johnson was pardoned only because Kim Kardashian is a "friend" to the Trump family, a reality star, and a marketing tool for Trump. If it doesn't benefit Trump personally or politically, he'll have nothing to do with it. While I believe Alice Johnson's injustice has been duly pardoned, and her case highlights a dysfunctional federal prison system, Donald Trump couldn't care less about her, or anyone else, beyond a photo op. He is a disgrace.
donaldo (Oregon)
If these thoughtful athletes can get the Kardashians to share with Trump their facts and views, perhaps he would be moved to action.
Caroline (Chicago)
If justice had really been served, Trump himself should have been in prison long ago for all his law breakings, serving punishments commensurate with those of the people whose plights these eloquent players point to: that is, many life sentences.
historyRepeated (Massachusetts)
Excellent opinion piece that addresses the underlying concerns without taking Trump's cynical bait. I look forward to the conversation moving forward on similarly professional grounds. I hope the Trump Administration can do the same.
Stacy (Kentucky)
Bravo! This is a wonderful response by citizens I'm proud to call my fellow Americans.
John (Oak Park )
"The United States EFFECTIVELY uses prison to treat addiction, and you could argue it is also our largest mental-health provider..." For those with a degree of literacy, we know what the word, "effectively," means in this context. But will Trump read it as praise for our penal institutions; a rationale to keep things as they are?
Mark (Pennsylvania)
As sending people to jail for more and more trivial reasons and keeping them there longer, has become a major for-profit industry and a source of membership growth and job security for prison guard unions, incarceration has gone from being unfortunate but necessary. to being morally and economically unsustainable. Separately, professional athletes have the same right to use their fame to speak out on political issues as reality TV stars, if not more. The former have little to gain for themselves, the latter are often seem to do it just to keep their brand in the spotlight.
Rose Anne (Chicago)
As with helping immigrants, it would be good for those with a lot of money to contribute some to the cause of drug addiction (and poverty). Unless they're advocating higher taxes for the wealthy (which would come from them!) there isn't enough for quality social service programs. People are so publicly sad, and angry, but in the end really don't want to pay for any solutions. "Go Fund Me" is not a consistent solution.
ejr1953 (Mount Airy, Maryland)
Alice Johnson was not some kid caught with a joint in her pocket, she was a drug kingpin, who had revenues of at least $40 million, selling cocaine, laundering money that she earned in this business, as well as those in the drug cartels who supplied her.
Bill B (Los Angeles)
If what you say is true, I believe what you might also be saying is that the bar for release set by Trump is very low and that's how it should be.
Nattyspats (Dallas, Texas)
A cogent, well written response to a "photo-op" comment by the President.
Drug trafficking incites criminal violence, which results in aggressive policing, which results in excessive use of force, which results in sanctimonious moralizing by rich athletes, which causes the rest of us to yawn and turn the page.
tbs (nyc)
so the idea is everyone should get released..? way to set up a straw man. here's an idea: give him ten names - let's see what goes on in individual cases. if it feels like there is injustice going on, it will set up the beginning of a national conversation. the president will NEED states, counties, cities, congress, governors, senators, judges - to make change. This is a national conversation. By putting all the change on Trump, you end it, fast.
GaGirrl (New York)
Trump put it on the players and the players put the issue back where it belonged. Submitting individual cases is a red herring and accomplishes nothing other than the standard commutations that occur annually. It also allows Trump a "see, I did what they asked" free pass. No thanks
historyRepeated (Massachusetts)
Giving Trump names only serves Trump. It make him Caesar asking the crowd whether a life should be spared. It makes him Pontius Pilatus. The net result is Trump can appear to appease the request, but then Jeff Sessions or some other entity may be displeased and Trump will say "no". Regardless, it puts the everyone else at Trump's mercy and whims. And should Trump pardon somebody the NFL players want, they then owe Trump something... Addressing the problem(s) directly is the best way to go.
Debbie (Santa Cruz, CA)
Tom (Nashville)
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. That's right out of the declaration of independence. It basically requires us to protest injustice as part of the deal for being a free nation. These gentleman are the example of what it means to be an American Citizen, not just a resident of the USA. I applaud your efforts, and history will remember you and what you stand/kneel for as a just a decent society, for ALL the people. Thank you and keep it up!
Rob Kinslow (Medford, Mass.)
Doug, Anquan, Malcolm and Benjamin, thank you. Thank you, thank you. Keep on pressing. We stand (and kneel) with you. Love will prevail.
Ray (Southeast Texas)
How beautiful and eloquent! It transcends the hateful talk so prevalent today. Bravo!!!
Kurt Pickard (Murfreesboro, TN)
Trump's not going to give any current, or former, NFL player the time of day until they start standing during the National Anthem.
Peter (CT)
And become white...
Tony (New York City)
We don't want anything from him. We need to vote and bring democracy back. A five time draft dodger can't tall to me about the flag.
Paul P. (Arlington)
@Kurt Pickard It's not YOUR (or trump's) place to tell others how to protest inhumane treatment; to go down that line of discourse only cheapens the real reasons that people feel the absolute need to protest in the first place. Sadly, your President can only view this matter through his own racist viewpoint. (and yes, he has a provable history of racist acts and statements).
Sammy Ias (Indianapolis, IN)
"We are here to treat one another with the kindness and respect every human being deserves." And prison is for the people that do the exact opposite.
Peter (CT)
No one is calling for the elimination of prisons, or disputing the need for them, but not everybody who is in prison belongs there. White people stole my life savings back in 2008, and nobody went to jail. My black neighbor spent his own money on some weed, and they locked him up. Respect and kindness aren’t being distributed equally, and neither is justice. If the prison system worked the way you seem to think it does, nobody wouldn’t be kneeling.
rds (florida)
Perhaps, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, since you think that's what prison is for, you should try it for a time.
Angry (The Barricades)
Is that why we put cannabis smokers in prison while letting the people who destroyed the world economy go free?
Stephen (Powers)
And here’s another group: First the DOJ should summarily convict all those recent illegal immigrants and then the President should summarily pardon them all.
Paul P. (Arlington)
@Stephen "all those recent illegal immigrants..." You mean the folks who are LEGALLY trying to request Asylum, and who were summarily arrested?
Bruce (Boston)
Pull the list of names from the prison records and send it to him. Then demand action. Bravo! And keep on kneeling!
ChesBay (Maryland)
If HE agrees that they were treated unfairly, he will pardon them? HAHAHAHAHA! They're black. They probably committed SOME crime, so they deserve what they got. Isn't that the way the thinking goes for the likes of tRump? Remember the Central Park 5? People keep moving along on the premise that tRump is a informed, rational, clear thinker, with the nation's best interests at heart. HAHAHAHAHAHA!
Garrett Clay (San Carlos, CA)
President Trump has the attention span and intellectual horsepower of an Irish setter. My preference is we find a way keep him on the golf course or in front of rallies seven days a week until he is removed. Any and everything he touches he will break.
Martha (Salem, OR)
Mr. Clay, On behalf of Irish Setter owners and Irish Setters themselves, I condemn your likening of these beautiful, intelligent, graceful, compassionate and family-oriented animals to the current resident in the White House. To Trump's owners I say, "Curb your dog." Have the fortitude and moral courage to risk your job and your influence. Either train him or remove him from the dog park.
Dwight Bobson (Washington, DC)
Key phrase by the Players: "If ... he hasn't been listening to us." You're not special so don't feel bad, he doesn't listen to anyone but himself, and even then he is still lying.
What an intelligent, enlightened view of the injustices in sentencing that have piled up in our nation's prisons -- and how to rectify them. How many lives have been utterly destroyed because of (for example) a marijuana conviction? You guys are so right to press this issue. Excellent work.
Reader 0001 (Nyc)
Disagree with he should be commended for pardoning Alice Johnson. Why? He skipped over thousands of legitimate applications for clemency and did a favor for a celebrity friend of Jared Kushner's. There is no justice in that. As a Times Ed writer said he is using this as a marketing tool not as a way to undo injustice.
Richard Lewis (Santa Barbara, CA)
“...embrace the values of empathy, integrity and justice... fight for what we believe is right... because we love this country. This is our America, our right.” Says it all.
C-E Dawson (Richmond CA)
Yes, yes, and YES! Thanks to these players for using their position to advocate for justice! And what they said about prisons is so true...I have seen it with my own eyes. We know they are addressing the worst president the U.S. has ever had, who clearly doesn't not even understand the word 'compassion' and is clearly a racist. But hopefully some others who read their words may start thinking about their message, and consider who they are when evaluating it. Bless them for speaking out...I hope they continue. They have a platform that will reach many.
Carl Hultberg (New Hampshire)
Go ahead. Keep talking about clemency to the president who has called for capital punishment for drug dealers. See how far that goes.
Evy (San Francisco)
I hate football, but, man, do I love this piece. Thank you.
Jim Muncy (& Tessa)
The punishment should fit the crime. And the punishment needs to be repugnant enough to make citizens stop breaking the law. If marijuana were legal, I would smoke it. But I don't want to go to jail: The deterrent is working in my case; and I think that it works in most others. For instance, I see people hitting their brakes ahead of me on the freeway when they see the Highway Patrol sitting behind that billboard. For a minute, they'll have to obey the posted speed limit. Rats! No rational person wants draconian punishments, of course; but, apparently, all societies want and need laws, law enforcement, court systems, and prisons. We abuse our freedoms. A few people may be perfect in all things; but the rest of us need some measure of supervision -- if we want a civil, safe society. Of course, getting all this right is a trick most countries can't pull off. "Life isn't fair" (Jimmy Carter). Sigh.
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
Jim, I suggest you try to see it from more than the perspective of a comfortable citizen.
Jim Muncy (& Tessa)
Climbing out of the box one is in is cursedly difficult -- second only to jumping out of one's skin.
Mark (New York, NY)
Thomas, your reply to Jim is basically ad hominem. This argumentative ploy is all the rage. It says, or implies, that the other's bias or privilege blinds them to the truth, and there is the patronizing suggestion that they try harder to see what is so obvious to the more enlightened, by transcending the limited perspective that has been diagnosed. As I read him, Jim does argue, or at least suggest, that the punishments for these infractions are not inappropriate. If one disagrees with that, then what's needed is an argument for the contrary. (If Jim were to be suggesting, instead, that such punishments are unfair, but that that's part of the cost of having a justice system, that would be something else. If that is what he's saying, and I've missed it, then I will be happy to be corrected.)
Anne (Nogales, AZ)
Brilliant, thank you for being proactive. You are dealing with a very ignorant, vindictive and cruel man.
DaDa (Chicago)
NFL owners get huge tax breaks and other corporate welfare, then go along with Trump when he depicts the protesting players as unAmerican and thugs smearing the flag when all they are asking for is for police to not shoot innocent people. We should all boycott the NFL.
Retired Cop (New York)
Instead of your silly protests that are killing your employer, how about focusing your efforts on how the NFL exploits mostly children of color. Look at Traumatic Brain Injury and off the charts rates of Parkinson's disease brought on by repeated head trauma. You guys are football players. Play football. But since I don't like football, keep doing what you are doing and maybe we can get rid of the NFL though a slow implosion.
JK (Durham, NC)
Yes, they are football players, but they are also citizens. Every citizen is entitled to voice their opinion on any subject they choose in this country.
catherine (Brooklyn)
1) Has ANYONE seen ANY evidence that the protests are killing football? Yes, ratings are down. But the causes likely have more to do with fantasy football leagues (which the NFL is bed with) than what happens, un-televised, before the game. And "killing" is kind of a strong word for one of the most profitable business in America. Sorry. I just think that argument is completely specious. 2) Can't understand the idea that "football players should just play football". By the same token, what would think if I said to you Mr. "retired cop" you should just stick to being a "retired cop" and not make your comment here. We all have right - and indeed an obligation - to engage in civic discourse. Bravo to these thoughtful and intelligent men for speaking up!
Vicki (Boca Raton, Fl)
Nice idea -- but there is way too much money in, the Republicans won't do anything to hurt GEO, CCA etc....or their investors.
M (Rhode Island)
Robert (Tallahassee, FL)
The main point that change is needed is well taken, but some of the ideas expressed here would seem to go beyond mere clemency to the point of violating separation of powers, creating a legislative executive that circumvents the will of congress. Once you concede that kind of sweeping power in this scenario don't complain when it is used in a way you disagree with later. Congress needs to address systemic shortcomings in the justice system with the support and leadership of the executive. Further, I think some of the proposals are too broad for safe implementation. Also, there is often good reason that "compassionate release" applications are turned down, not the least of which is that society has every right to expect people who break the law to serve their lawful sentence regardless of the fact that they become ill while doing so. The fact is, sometimes the punishment for a crime is such that the offender will die in prison, and that event sooner rather than later (because of a post-sentence health condition) does not alter that expectation. Still, kudos to the writers for their thoughtful stance and good luck on changing perceptions enough to change policy.
Mick VV (San Jose, CA)
RB (Michigan)
Bravo--thank you for using your voices to speak up for change. I'd also suggest that each state appoint a group of lawyers (there are so many who would love to work on something meaningful) to review cases like the ones you mentioned at the state and federal level, and recommend them for early release or other appropriate action.
Blue State Commenter (Seattle)
RB -- This sensitive, thoughtful article addresses the issue of over-incarceration at the federal level, and that is where most of those sentenced to long mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenses are found. Many lawyers would jump at the opportunity you suggest giving them -- hundreds of lawyers around the country (including me) volunteered to assist federal inmates seeking clemency through the Clemency Project 2014, an initiative of the prior Administration. But no President wants responsibility for a Willie Horton. I handled three clemency applications, in only one of which was clemency granted. And one of the denied applications was denied despite the input of the sentencing judge, who emailed the Pardon Attorney in support of the application, noting that "the system failed" my client when it gave him a life sentence. In short, these cases present complex, time-consuming issues, and you will not get lawyers to volunteer to address them without some prospect that their efforts may succeed.
RB (Michigan)
Hi there--Thanks for your comment and for your perspective. I am a lawyer, too, and I'm sorry to hear about your experience--we know all too well that justice is not always the result of the justice system. But knowing that, I would still happily sign up (it would be more enticing if some form of compensation were part of the deal, for sure), hoping that some additional "Alice Johnsons" would be released at the end of the process.
DC (Philadelphia)
I believe there is strong merit in what is being proposed. I suspect a challenge may be what is the definition of "non-violent". Certainly if the person was arrested and found guilty on a possession charge where the amount involved clearly was for personal use and not distribution then I agree that clemency is in order. However, if the person was charged and found guilty of possession with intent to distribute I think that becomes a different conversation. Knowing the scourge that drugs have been on our country it is very likely that the actual sell of the drug that led to incarceration was a non-violent act but how do you then ignore any violence that occurred after that or that by distributing it contributed to destroying lives? There has to be consideration given to the impact of the distribution of the drug, not just the singular act. Maybe the sentences become less but it cannot just be ignored as if no harm was caused to others.
F. McB (New York, NY)
Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Benjamin Watson, thank you for outlining some of the outstanding faults with our justice system and the racial bias that is built into it. I hope that you will seek to spread your analyses, stories and protests to many media outlets. The people need to hear from you and to know in detail the basis of your position. You have communicated with clarity, knowledge, experience and respect. You share your views with the qualities we admire in our leaders.
Anna (Santa Cruz, CA)
Echoing the thanks for using your platform to write this and for the data about people in our prisons. I'm a psychotherapist and your observation that the prison system is our biggest mental health provider (were it only to provide mental health services).
Thank you for using your platform to put forth a cogent, common sense proposal for change. It’s a small step and an easy litmus test for whether Trump and the GOP are serious about these issues. Unfortunately, I fear that we already know how they’ll respond...and how it will be covered on Fox et al. Nonetheless, keep doing what you’re doing on this front, and, more generally, protect your brains and bodies as best you can. We can use your leadership on the field and off.
Black Lives Matter-and as this cogent essay demonstrates-Black Leaders Matter! These Black Leaders have stepped to the fore and I look forward to hearing them more frequently in near future.
Gene Harter (Salisbury, MD)
You should never protest without specific grievances and well defined goals. To act otherwise is idle, irresponsible, feckless, and counterproductive.
Rachel (AL)
What?? Their goals have been defined. Over and over again.
Jeff K (Vermont)
Would you also agree that condemning those same protesters without actually understanding the actual nature of their consternation is also "idle, irresponsible, feckless and counterproductive"?
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
Pence will pardon Trump immediately after taking office, after which American Presidents will be forbidden forevermore from ever granting pardons again.
Jennifer (NJ)
It is not the current president's job to grant clemency to everyone. The last president, who people claim was so great when he was one of the worst EVER, wouldn't pardon Alice Johnson but the current one did.
Rachel (AL)
They aren't out here protesting for pardons but reform. If there was reform there wouldn't be a need for pardons.
Richard Rosenthal (New York)
Yes, because he was asked to do so by a Kardashian. You can't get any more thoughtful, more deeply probing than that.
Angry (The Barricades)
Worst EVER? You sure? By what metric?
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
Pence will pardon Trump, after which American Presidents will be forbidden forevermore from granting pardons again.
Wendy (Chicago)
Great piece. I would go one step further than the authors. Decriminalize all drugs. By the way, that was done in Portugal and drug use actually went down.
DC (Philadelphia)
Not fully accurate. Possession of a 10 day or less supply was decriminalized for any type of drug. But large quantities possessed and performing acts of distribution are still criminal acts in Portugal. But they have had significant positive impact on use and treatment through the law changes.
Wendy (Chicago)
PS. If anyone is interested in the societal effects of Portugal's decriminalization laws, I highly recommend this article from The Guardian. It's long but very well researched and covers all aspects of how these new laws changed Portuguese society.
Shelley Larkins (Portland, Oregon)
Thank you for not allowing yourselves to be coopted by Donald Trump and used as props to support his campaign, and for instead fighting for a worthy and urgent cause.
GetReal (DC)
"If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn’t been listening to us." Of course he hasn't been listening. If he were to actually listen to these players' (and citizens') most legitimate and justified concerns, he wouldn't have the red meat to toss to his racist base by dismissing these true patriots of being un-American due to their means of protest. He doesn't care. You guys may be rich, but you have the wrong skin tone for this sham of a man to give one iota of concern to the plight of the legions of prisoners and victims of police brutality you so eloquently attempt to bring to his attention. His offer was an empty vessel, much like the man himself. You will never see action to better the lives of people of color in this country under the Trump regime. Take it to the bank. But thank you, nonetheless, for trying to work on the madman's terms, if only to call out his hypocrisy and empty promises. Keep fighting and keep protesting. Thinking Americans and real patriots know what you are actually protesting and understand why you fight. Trump is neither thoughtful nor patriotic. You are far better served to make a difference at the local level than to try to bargain with our Racist-in-Chief.
dav.veteran (jersey shore aaaaayyyy)
Trump is so out of touch he is completely ineffective and actually a grave danger to our country. Trump's responses to these disasters of his own making are full of small deals held in his hands as if they're some great wonderful magnanimous offering. To all the people who believe differently, that offering to pardon a few people of the NFL player's choosing is a good deal the NFL players would do well to take, consider how out of touch with reality an individual has to be to allow an abuse of children to become real factual boots on the ground policy. Think about that. Regardless of off the cuff outburst remarks at rallies which make supporters think the billionaire is punching below the belt for the white working poor's, that he has someone else' best interests at heart, Trump doesn't have a heart and is so far out of touch with you, and everyone you and I both know, that he and his queen of cruelty are completely ineffective and actually a grave danger to our country. Trump is so out of touch he is completely ineffective and actually a grave danger to our country.
Frank (Colorado)
Good thought-provoking piece. Management by exception should be the rule for elderly prisoners. The exception would be the prisoner over 65 years of age who is determined to be a violent risk to society. Others would be released if they had served a minimum required number of years for considerstion for compassionate release. The people released who needed health services would present a challenge to the communities to which they were released. But that challenge is a better option than the moral stain we currently support with our taxes. And, once and for ever, can we please look at addiction as a clinical rather than a criminal issue? (Maryland/Metro DC area)
There is a vast problem with the criminal (in)justice system and the unfairness falls most heavily on people of color and those without money to pay for high priced lawyers. Does anyone care? Most crimes are pleaded out, not subject to trial, because the accused know if they go through a trial, the prosecutor and the judge will come down much harder on them for forcing the state to go to that trouble and expense. So, they plead out and hope, often finding that no mercy is available to them. The whole idea behind criminalizing drugs, beyond the dangers people can cause on the roads or to their families when drugged up, was the idea that people must work and be productive. In other words, drugs could stop you from working so you would become useless to society, especially to employers who need cheap labor. So, drugs were treated as a deadly threat to the enterprise system. The cure is worse than the disease: it rips apart families, destroys the ability to earn income and marks people for life, if they get out. Racial fears are also part of why people are sentenced to forever in prison. Can a majority white population can ever administer a fair system where blacks are concerned? Probably not. How would the average white person feel if he or she went into court and found that 90% of those passing judgement were black? We have an unfair system producing egregious results, but we turn our heads and look the other way because it isn't happening to us or our families.
professor ( nc)
Well done! I wholeheartedly support your efforts on reforming the criminal justice system.
llnyc (NYC)
Beautifully written and reasoned, gentlemen.
richard wiesner (oregon)
Can we make it constitutionally legal for the Players Coalition to assume presidential pardoning powers for a couple of weeks. Just a trial run, to see what can be accomplished by thinking people. Maybe we could sell it as a drain the swamp sort of thing. RAW
Ben (Brooklyn)
Donald Trump's takeaway from this article: "Some very nice NFL players commended me for using my clemency power."
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
Someone should explain to Trump that this is something Obama should have done but failed to do. Trump has a chance to go one up. He'll love that. It is also true, this is a specific thing for which better had been expected. This proposal is a good example of how the pardon power is supposed to be used, to fix what the legal system just can't or won't. Such a sweeping pardon has been done. It was for example once done for the entire Confederate Army and government. That was much bigger than this proposal, and done for the same reason, to set a national course that otherwise would not be set.
Charlie Fieselman (Isle of Palms, SC and Concord, NC)
Beautifully written. I support your efforts. I will contact our legislators to take action to support your goals as well.
Jerry (Boca Raton, FL)
As Michelle Alexander pointed out in her book The New Jim Crow, "an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rights—including the right to vote; the right to serve on juries; and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits." Alexander shows that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
Carl (New Yorkish)
The NFL players should recommend that Trump pardon himself. Pardoning himself for the excuse of not being a leader or a positive role model unlike many of the NFL players where Trump is taking his sad ire out on.
A. Schwartz (Chapel Hill, NC)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting so eloquently and compassionately both the simplicity and complexity of these grave, systemic injustices. I am a teacher, and I see the residential inequities you reference when I compare the school districts in a small radius from where I live in North Carolina. I am with you.
VR (Alachua, FL)
Pardoning nonviolent offenders is only part of the solution. Unless we follow pardons with housing, job training, employment, access to transportation and medical care, then we are sending these people to the streets to join the already thousands of homeless felons and veterans.
Pete G (Raleigh, NC)
Wonderful article! Though I'm nobody, I fully support you all, and every single word of this.
Michael stahl (New Jersey)
Why is everyone more elegant, enlightened and able to put forth a stream of cogent thoughts than is Donald Trump.
Mark (Iowa)
Yet they were not elected President. Hmmm. Why is that?Let us ponder that..
Rip Murdock (CA)
Some suggestions for President Trump: Leonard Peltier (73)-life without parole; murder of 2 FBI agents. Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (aka H. Rap Brown) (74)-life without parole. Convicted by the State of Georgia, but in federal custody. Eligible for compassionate release. Murder and attempted murder of two Fulton County Sheriff's deputies. Ana Belen Montes (61)-25 years, espionage for Cuba. Jeremy Hammond (33)-10 years; computer hacking. Patrice Lumumba Ford (47)-18 years, seditious conspiracy and levying war against American and allied forces. Amina Ali (36) and Hawo Hassan (66)-20 and 10 years respectively, for material support for terrorism (al-Shabab). Dr. Aafia Siddiqui (43)-68 years, for seven counts of attempted murder and assault of US personnel.
Charlie J. (Pittsburgh)
Right on.
mtrav (AP)
tRump do something good? Are kidding me?
pbrown68 (Temecula, CA)
Keep speaking up ... pro athletes have a voice that cannot be silenced, and needs to be heard. More power to you !
Paul Heagen (Cincinnati)
NYT Editors: "Who" not "whom." It's bad enough with Trump butchering the language.
Keith (In Or Around Philadelphia)
@Paul - "Whom" is correct. It is the direct object of the pardon. "Who" would be the subject ("Who pardons whom?").
Ami (Portland, Oregon)
I commend these athletes for using their platform to try to raise awareness for past wrongs. Let's face it, the war on drugs was geared towards locking up people of color while giving white people a pass. That's why crack cocaine and powder cocaine were prosecuted differently. Anyone who says that people with drug convictions can't go on to be productive citizens should ask themselves if Tim Allen should still be behind bars. As a white drug dealer who snitched he was given a relatively light sentence but has gone on to have a pretty good life. Shouldn't people of color be given the same opportunity for reform. President Obama started trying to make a difference by commuting excessive drug sentences but he wasn't able to finish the job. Trump likely won't do anything to continue the cause but perhaps we can put enough pressure on Congress to change our laws so they reflect reality.
Neil (Brooklyn)
Patriots such as the authors are what makes our country great. Our military does not own the Flag or the Anthem. The people own it. The military protects it.
Tom ,Retired Florida Junkman (Florida)
I carefully read this essay, the only name I saw was the lady who was already pardoned. Was it the point of this essay to say all drug dealers should be released. That of course would make no sense. The essay also mentioned the elderly prisoners. To release these elderly prisoners into society is also difficult, but not as difficult as releasing drug dealers. I would like to commend these players for thinking about this problem, however they did not offer any solutions. Mass release is not the answer. Not poisoning our kids is the answer to staying out of prison. You sell poison, you must deal with the consequences.
Oblio (Seattle)
This appears to be an old world view of non-violent drug crimes. Also, the assumption made is that they are all drug dealers. Many "non-violent drug offenders" were imprisoned for things that are legal today. I don't believe for a second that they are speaking of cartel-type gangs. This broad view would incarcerate tens of thousands more in legal businesses today. The answer can't be fully stated in one incredibly important article that is very well written. I fully commend these players for their article and their actions.
Slann (CA)
Incarcerating people for life, fro non-violent offenses, and after 20 years served (for example), is WRONG. It's stupidly expensive, and serves no purpose. Our "kids" are "poisoned" by pharma, alcohol and tobacco corporations every day, yet the obvious double standard seems to escape too many people. And releasing those who are obviously at the end of their days, and have served significant time (again, for non-violent offenses), is just logical.
Marlon (New Jersey)
The dispute isn't about the consequence but more about how fitting the punishment is for the crime committed. Spending a lifetime in jail for non-violent drug related crimes committed decades ago isn't justice. Outside of being immoral, our tax dollars pay for privately run prisons. President Trump is always commenting about unnecessary spending . He can sell the idea of granting blanket clemency as cost reduction for taxpayers so that it appeals to his base.
laolaohu (oregon)
On any list of pardons the name Leonard Peltier should rise to the top.
D Jiang (Chicago)
Huh? He murdered two FBI agents! This article is talking about non-violent drug offenses.
Much too long an article. Trump will never make it past the first 2 paragraphs, which are complimentary toward him.
Slann (CA)
As if he'd ever have a chance to see it!
steve strauss (kenner LA)
You gentlemen are among the very finest Americans. May you be heard.
J. G. Smith (Ft Collins, CO)
They are NOT among the finest. If they REALLY cared, they'd be marching in Chicago and Baltimore. But they won't because those cities are Democratic strongholds for decades. They are showmen...nothing more.
MV (Arlington,VA)
Those cities have received a lot of attention from critics of modern-day policing. And many of the unjust sentences they describe undoubtedly originate from those cities. But it's not really your place to decide where they should be making their point.
Angry (The Barricades)
Except that many of them have spoken out about violence in America's cities
Kim (S.)
Excellent! Thank you!
Margaret Quesada (Athens, GA)
"We are citizens who embrace the values of empathy, integrity and justice, and we will fight for what we believe is right. We weren’t elected to do this. We do it because we love this country, our communities and the people in them. This is our America, our right." Bravo to these brave men who are standing up to Trump. But Trump will never understand their cause, their patriotism, their integrity and their empathy for those who suffer under a racist and oppressive system. With his statements, Trump implies that because these players are millionaires, they have no reason to protest. They have profited from the system and they should be "grateful". But then those who suffer under the system and protest, he criticizes for not doing well, for not being "smart enough" to take advantage of the system. There is no way to reach him or those who continue to support him. Those of us who agree with opinion pieces like this have to organize, donate to just causes and vote in every. single. election.
Mike Eisenberg (Seattle)
"Of the roughly 185,000 people locked up in federal prisons, about 79,000 are there for drug offenses of some kind — and 13.5 percent of them have sentences of 20 years or more. 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." Almost half!! And disproportionately minority. Free the non-violent and treat be them.
Stephen (Boston,MA)
The writers have clearly researched the issue of punishment and imprisonment in the US. As a nation, the US imprisons more people per capita—mostly brown and black men—than any other economically developed country in the world. Why? Prison and sentencing reform is necessary, timely and humane. It is a national issue that should be addressed but it is unlikely to be in the current do nothing Congress. Congratulation to the writers for bringing forth their ideas on prison refoirm.
newrein (DC)
The majority of prison inmates are white.
Link Olson (Fairbanks, AK)
Wrong you are.
MV (Arlington,VA)
Not as a percentage of the population.
Reflecting With Age (Durham)
Thoughtful, and well-articulated.
DW (Brighton)
I've fantasized that some key players from one or another NFL team will do their protesting in the locker room, as permitted, while the anthem is playing and then, when summoned to come out, say, "Sorry, but we're not quite done. You go ahead with the game; we'll be out in a few . . . ."
Slow fuse (oakland calif)
Read what you wrote and liked what you said. Well done!
Sam Marcus (New York) Be on the right side of history and tell your friends and family you did something.
Beth (Colorado)
This is what I hoped NFL players would say! Brilliant essay! But will Trump and his staff read and understand? Doubtful.
The Owl (New England)
The problem with the players' solution to the issue, as well meaning as it might be, is that the President's powers to pardon are individual in nature, not class of individuals. Further, it is inappropriate to pardon those that do not deserve pardon by including them in a class of "similar" offenses. Perhaps the solution is a more streamlined review of cases and a systematic review of sentencing much like what occurred when Congress passed fairly sweeping legislation that overhauled the federal sentencing guidelines. I applaud Baldwin, Boldin, Jenkins, and Watson for taking Trump up on his suggestion that the NFL players offer specific suggestions for when pardon or commutation is appropriate. Their suggestion is, unfortunately, over-broad and unworkable.
Guy Sajer (Boston, MA)
I'm not sure it is unworkable. It could be, but the Governor of Virginia worked to pardon lots of people and gave them back their right to vote. Perhaps that was done individually. I could be wrong, and it involved a lot of staff work as well, but it was, at least, a start....
Kevin (Colorado)
Note that Carter pardoned all Vietnam era draft dodgers with no list at all. So it is factually not true that the president can only pardon individuals.
Slann (CA)
Of course it could be done. We have the resources to organize anything. If we have the will, we can accomplish the goal. The question is just how much actual will the person in the Oval Office actually has. As long as "celebrities" (and haven't we stretched that description!) are involved, with photo ops, that man can be persuaded. But if the impetus comes from athletes of color, we shouldn't hold our collective breath. That guy doesn't really care.
Danilo Pecher (Frankfurt, Germany)
I see two things that make their plea futile. First, Trump only uses his pardoning power if it somehow serves him and his plans. Second, mass releases from prisons would hurt the business of running prisons. Trump wouldn't want that.
kim (nyc)
I think they know that. They're calling him on his bluff. He likes playing king after all. Better than presiding.
Mike (San Francisco)
Agree on the first point but not so much the second. The other reason this wouldn't work has much more to do with racism than corporate greed - he has built a platform on castigating "others" and preying on racism, xenophobia, and like fears. This would be a total 180 from that, and may be one of the very few things that would actually upset his base. He can flip flop on most things and his base won't care, but if he takes a more liberal/progressive approach to either law enforcement or immigration, he risks losing the political support of his base.
Dan Liebler (Brentwood, TN)
I agree with the authors' policy recommendations. The long-term, mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders is a national disgrace, but don't expect the Trump party to lift a finger on this one. This message should be directed instead to Democrats, who would be more likely to resume the process, begun under the Obama administration, of deconstructing the federal incarceration enterprise.
Terry H. (Mainz, Germany)
Both kneeling and an article like this have their place. There are two different audiences. If the players hadn't started their peaceful protest, we wouldn't be having this discussion here.
I believe that you are forgetting where you are. This is a white christian country whose primary motivations are greed, bigotry and vengeance. We are currently moving relentlessly into an era in which those characteristics are becoming more and more strengthened. The degree to which minorities have achieved the legal acknowledgment of their right to be treated without reference to non relevent characteristics--skin color or sexual orientation or gender--parallels the hardening of resistence to those rights. You may have a choice that might be effective. Give it up. Quit. Strike. However, I totally sympathize with your unwillingness to put your life and your future on the line. Colin Kaepernick is more than enough scapegoat to illustrate the reality. But otherwise you will be doing what all of us libprogs do, moan ineffectually and complain rationally (as I am doing) about the injustice of the world.
Jim (Raleigh, NC)
Let's face it: all Donald Trump wants is to be the star of a few headline-making pardons. He has no interest in fairness or justice or even basic human rights (as his friendliness with dictators and his separation of immigrant children from their parents clearly demonstrates). Whatever decent gesture he might make, such as the pardoning of Alice Johnson, occurs in the grim shadow of his administration's policies. As the Times reported on May 12, "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects . . . reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations."
James (US)
Dear players: I understand you want to raise awareness of social injustice, however, I ask that you not disrespect our flag while you are doing it. I think your positive message has gotten lost over the way you expressed your message. I think that is unfortunate as I think there are more people that might support you otherwise.
kostja (seattle)
James - that you interpret kneeling as disrespect is precisely this...your interpretation. Please take the players by their word that they do not mean to disrespect the flag or their country. To the contrary, if our country does wrong, as it has done plentiful in the past and right now, we all need to speak up in whatever legal way we deem effective
Mike (San Francisco)
They are not disrespecting the flag; they are peacefully protesting an actual, real social problem affecting people's lives. If you want to obfuscate the underlying issue by arguing that they are somehow disrespecting the flag or the military (since when did the US flag = the military?), that is your right, I guess, but you must understand that it's all in your head. I think the real reason people act so upset about the kneeling is that the underlying issue frightens them - it is not something they are willing or able to deal with so they have subconsciously glommed onto the fabricated strawman of patriotism as the primary issue, ignoring the entire purpose of the protest.
Jenifer (Issaquah)
Dear James, Genuflect to the flag as much as you want. Our flag stands for JUSTICE FOR ALL to me so when that's not happening I have a right to protest. Have a nice day.
MyOwnWoman (MO)
Bravo! I applaud you all for speaking out and using your positions as current and former professional athletes to shed light on a very important issue. I also applaud all the professional football players who take a knee at games to protest the rampant and deadly racism let loose upon our society. You honor yourselves and your country by taking action and not standing idly by while racism, hatred and bigotry infest our beloved country, and you serve as models to all others, adults and children alike, who also love their country and want to do everything they can to save it.
Joe Pearce (Brooklyn)
Unless I have been terribly misinformed, Ms. Johnson was not some low-level minor drug dealer who sold $100 worth of cocaine or heroin or whatever in a dark shadow somewhere on a city street, but instead was a major part of a large ring involving millions of dollars. While her actual act of selling drugs may have been 'non-violent', how about the hundreds (thousands?) of criminal acts perpetrated by the buyers of those drugs, and whom she may have helped addict to begin with. I keep reading that she's a grandmother, but would she them to her own grandchildren? Maybe she would have. In any case, she got exactly the sentence she deserved, and the 'act of mercy' involved in pardoning her should be accepted as such, instead of using it as one more way to attack Mr. Trump (which commentators here seem mostly to be doing). As for the column itself, I would imagine that many of the people they write about can safely be freed, as long they and the writers understand that they brought all of this upon themselves, and they didn't have to do so.
blf (Seattle)
thank you - you inspire me to work for criminal justice reform
Ken (Houston Texas)
A nice article, but the elephant in the room is the President's divisive nature, and how polarizing he is not only to the people that didn't vote for him or support him, but how he's viewed worldwide. As long as people that didn't vote for the President view him as someone not worthy of respect, or a Putin mouthpiece, then things won't get done for the betterment of the Country.
David (Mnpls)
Selling drugs is violent business. If dealers have not carried out violence directly they've probably paid others to do it for them.
Anthony (Kansas)
Yes. Stop the madness. Great commentary by men our administration clearly does not respect.
SteveRR (CA)
While I can appreciate football players attempting to make a coherent argument for pardoning an entire block of incarcerated felons, they do nothing for their cause by conflating 'users' from 'dealers'. The former are placed in prison as a substitute for rehab while the latter destroy communities of color across all of the nation. Dealers murder, rape and enslave people of all colors and all ages. And - just in passing - they typically outnumber incarcerated 'users' by four to one in state pens.
Wildebeest (Atlanta)
Spot on. Well said, and not just “in passing”.
Brendan (New York)
The number of street level dealers would be drastically reduced if people had better opportunities (well paying jobs) to make money.
Rrbekah (Portland)
Do they separate them by saying "non-violent" drug offenses? To me, they do. So, the rapists, murderers and other violent drug dealers would have had additional charges against them.
Birddog (Oregon)
What Jesus said about Forgiveness: "If your brother sins rebuke him, if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, 'I repent', forgive him." Luke 17.3-4 "I If you forgive others the wrongs they have done you, your Father in Heaven will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you." Matthew 6.14-15 *Thanks NYT for the reminders about mercy and forgiveness and where it just might be needed the most.
Rachel Hoffman (Portland OR)
He can't profit from clemency so he doesn't care. There is no language strong enough to express the fundamental greed, evil, and self-regard of this individual - he is less than a man.
Robert McKee (Nantucket, MA.)
I like the part where this piece reminds us that football players are citizens, too. It's almost as if, because they are good at what they do and get paid a lot of money for doing it, they should just keep quiet and keep us entertained andmaking their owners rich while they're at it.
Independent Thinking (Minneapolis)
Of all of the things President O’Bama could have done but did not, this is at the top of the list.
kostja (seattle)
He actually took major steps towards it - working closely with Sally Yates. He also issued hundreds of pardons for non-violent drug offenders and victims of the three-strike rule.
Cornflower Rhys (Washington, DC)
Presidents cannot unilaterally change the criminal justice system.
Ally (Philadelphia)
pointofdiscovery (The heartland)
Well said, thank you. I agree 100% with releasing these prisoners who do not represent a risk to anyone. I also hope the legalization of marijuana is completed across the country which will keep the results of essentially ' having a drink' not to be imprisoned.
damcer (california)
An eloquent and true appeal but, what we have to understand, is what the authors are asking is way too complicated for 45. It would take too much time to study seriously and come up with appropriate actions. It's much easier to have a photo op flourish of the pen, handshakes all around, and 'aren't I a compassionate fellow' smile.
BD (New Orleans)
Guys, great piece but the prison system is a big money maker for politicians and some their supporters, notwithstanding the injustice particularly in the GOP. They NEED prisoners. Good luck with that one.
Rick Papin (Watertown, NY)
A blanket pardon raises all kinds of questions, though I agree that on an individual basis many in prison should not be there for any number of reasons. It is important to remember that the President can only pardon those convicted of Federal crimes in Federal Courts. State and local convictions must be appealed to the governor. (
The Owl (New England)
It should also be noted that most in jail for drug crimes ARE incarcerated by the states... And they have been put there by prosecution and conviction by a jury of their peers... plea bargaining to avoid having to face consequences more dire should they lose at trial.
Brendan McCarthy (Texas)
This article is much more purposeful than the kneeling protests, which lack specific goals and an end state. If you add the user-vs-seller distinction that others have pointed out, it would be more actionable still.
El Herno (NYC)
Without the kneeling protests you never get this opinion piece.
RS (Seattle)
But without the kneeling, Trump would have never made his offer, which is what prompted this letter and probably what got it published!
Pete (Texas)
True, but I'm not sure that we'd have this article on the front page of the NY Times, along with its potential widespread effect, without the kneeling protests, which is precisely why they are effective.
Observer (Connecticut)
By protesting before games, the players may not be standing for the anthem, but they are standing very tall for the principles our nation was founded on. After seeing the seemingly endless news regarding excessive police violence and murder by police, how can anyone not wonder how such things can happen so frequently in our communities. I commend the players for taking a stand for the protection of their communities, and hopefully, keep the spotlight on police brutality until the practice of abusing citizens and immigrants by the police is dealt with effectively by the criminal justice system.
Sarah (Dallas, TX)
This season, I will a knee with the players from my living room on game day. I'm not disparaging the flag, but supporting the beautiful lives of my fellow citizens who are not being treated with the dignity, justice and respect they deserve. I invited like minded Americans to do the same, especially those in the stadiums. This was never a protest of patriotism. It is one about equal treatment, plain and simple.
Daniel Diffin (Westerly, RI)
Well said, gentlemen. Thank you for using your voices in this way. While I do not hold out much hope that President Trump will listen to you or take your message to heart, I fervently hope that he will do so.
Felicia Bragg (Los Angeles)
Yes, this is their America, and peaceful protest is their right. We appreciate and need these young men to translate their positions of privilege into protest on behalf of the powerless. I am proud of them, and hope that their example will inspire and guide my grandson and many others like him.
manfred marcus (Bolivia)
The richness and resolve of the people depends not so much in saying 'Amen' to whatever a despotic regime ('a la Trump') is saying, and doing, but in our speaking up to power, and demanding justice when unjust laws are being imposed. And the strength of a democracy is not the use of brute force to impose certain privileges for some and stealing from the rest...but in exercising constructive criticism to change things for the better. Right now, all we have surrounding an unscrupulous beast in the Oval Office are "Yes men, and some Yes women", complicit in his trampling of American democracy. Insulting the N.F.L. players by standing up (kneeling down, in this case) to discrimination, is an outrage. And the team owners, hypocrites as they are, as they depend of these same players to remain filthy rich, ought to be ashamed by bending to our racist in-chief. We are living in nasty times, with glaring inequities, and losing what we should be holding in high esteem, trust in each other.
Iamcynic1 (Ca.)
Trump should pardon the children kept in cages on the border,as well as their parents.This would be a good first step toward immigration reform that the Democrats would actually support.He wouldn't have to lie about them.It's just another attempt by Trump to keep the focus on the players and a cynical one at that.What is that quote about tyrants wrapping themselves in the flag instead of the constitution?
Ernie Cohen (Philadelphia)
It would help quite a bit if the statistics separated out sentences for drug possession from dealing and manufacturing.
Felipe J (Los Angeles)
Bravo! As a mental health professional, and as a citizen, I applaud the recommendations to move addiction treatment out of prisons and into the public health community... the time has come to end this drug war insanity.
Kingston Cole (San Rafael, CA)
Excellent piece by thoughtful men.
David (San Jose, CA)
These young men are an order of magnitude more patriotic, sincere, intelligent and articulate than the President who cynically started this divisive argument for political gain. I'm as proud of them as Americans as I am disgusted by the bigotry that has infested the Oval Office.
Marian W (Portland, OR)
This may be the most eloquent comment I have ever seen. Straight to the point. Well said.
dwayne (atlanta)
To all who are congratulating and patting these athletes for "using the right forum to speak on social issues and keeping the protests off the field of play." I can confidently say the reason this column/editorial piece written by these athletes is getting the attention it deserves is because they protested on the field of play. Collin kapernick was right.
The Circus (New York)
Great stuff. Kneeling during the national anthem has been successful in raising to national prominence the issues of police brutality and discriminatory abuse of power by the state. Colin Kaepernick deserves tremendous credit for initiating that process at tremendous cost to his professional career. The next step, having gained the nation's attention, is to propose and discuss actual solutions. Personally, I would like to hear more about the possibility of passing new laws that allow for the use of self-defense in response to police misconduct and otherwise seek to deter such misconduct in the first place. I applaud the authors of this piece and the Times for publishing it. Good job.
B. (Brooklyn)
Well, look, President Trump pardoned Alice Johnson not because she was a drug trafficker but because she was a money launderer, and that pardon sets a tidy precedent for when Trump's own family, notorious for money-laundering in cooperation with Russia, will need same. I hope, however, that those who are in jail for selling drugs are not released immediately. My neighbors and I are always glad when our neighborhood dealers are taken off our streets and sorry when they reappear. The double-parked cars, the stray men, the detritus, the urine, the noise in the middle of the night -- . Others might not, but I remember when that sort of thing didn't happen in Brooklyn. No, it isn't normal. And no, I'm not excusing crooks like the Trump family syndicate.
Rod (TX)
As we consider clemency for those imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses, let's make note that clemency by the president is only available to those serving federal sentences. It us unlikely that your neighborhood dealers are subject to such sentences.
Other relevant statistics that should be considered are recidivism by age, race, gender. The two sides are far apart because each deals in absolutes and are unilateral in their demands - there is a common ground. Offered this opportunity to present candidates, I would think the players would use it to identify candidates that meet similar broad categories of injustice (i.e. Alice Johnson) to highlight the statistical weight of the injustice. Trump would have a difficult time dealing with each case individually when presented with so broad a category. In this case - all parties win.
Jiggie (Minneapolis)
Putting people in jail for non-violent drug offenses is a waste of money and life. If drugs were legalized, many problems would go away and there wouldn't be the mass dependencies that some fear. Drug distribution could be strictly controlled and made inconvenient to discourage widespread recreational use (no private sector sales backed by marketing, as in what's happening with marijuana). The drug street crime would disappear as would the need for drug cartels and the violence in Mexico and central America...this would cut down on migrants at the border fleeing violence in their own countries. We need to think out of the box on this issue and look at the experience of other countries, such as Portugal, which have legalized drugs. In the meantime, the NFL citizens are right: People in prison on non-violent drug offenses should have their sentences reviewed and be considered for reduced sentencing or pardon.
Abe (Montreal)
Sometime last year, I resolved to never again watch an NFL football game, disgusted as I am by the league, team owners, and their President. These players - courageous, articulate, brilliant - make me reconsider. Would that they and their fellows could form a team, their fans would be legion.
JPG (Webster, Mass)
Long-term incarceration for nonviolent offenses is a waste. In what way does society benefit from this? And, for you frugal folks, this policy also busily sucks up millions (billions?) of your tax dollars. But - also please remember - that it's not only the incarcerated who are punished. Many family members and friends of jailed are are also deprived of interaction with this once-familiar human being. Shouldn't this aspect be part of the equation? Lastly, you might also want to consider that our (any?) legal system is not perfect. Many of the imprisoned never deserved to be there in the first place.
AngryWhiteLady (Newport. RI)
This is a cogent argument, too bad Mr. President will never get past the first paragraph. Most of us would be better off if Trump cared as much about the written law as he cares about "taking a knee". So long as the laws that black and brown people break are enforced with intense zeal and disproportionate punishment, and the laws that white men break are completely whitewashed (think 2008 financial debacle, emoluments clause violations, sexual harassment, etc...), we will never have true justice. Carping about "Taking a Knee". This is the linguistic smoke screen that the worst offenders hide behind.
AIR (Brooklyn)
It's all a heartless process. First Trump wants individual players to ID their imprisoned friends. Then he will offer to consider pardons only if the player stops kneeling before the flag. If the player continues kneeling, he'll let the friends rot. That's how Trump's mind works. One person's misery is his opportunity.
silver vibes (Virginia)
The pleas from these four NFL players will fall on deaf ears. This president is not like President Obama who commuted prison sentences for less serious drug offenders. Obama also had the kindness and compassion to commute the two life sentences being served by the grandmother of NFL player Demaryius Thomas. His successor cares nothing about justice, leniency or fair play. He wants to make an example, not of NFL players so much as to put black people in their places, and the president thinks that all of them should be locked up. Messrs. Baldwin, Boldin, Jenkins and Watson, the president’s message of pardons and leniency is not for you. His brand of justice is reserved for the likes of the racist ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Scooter Libby. Even if you guys took a knee for this president he’d hang you out to dry. He doesn’t have ears for protests or dissent, especially from people who don’t look like him.
Cowboy Marine (Colorado Trails)
My plan as suggested to the White House...Only active military and military veterans stand during the National Anthem at sporting events. All others remain seated out of respect for those Americans who have served/are serving their country.
WillT26 (Durham, NC)
Blanket pardons for entire categories of offenders would result in the loss of innocent life. 60 year old criminals can still hurt, maim, and kill people. Many in prison, for nonviolent offenses, actually have a long history of violence. That history of violence may be part of the reason why they got such a long sentence to begin with. I am opposed to long sentences for nonviolent offenders. I am equally opposed to blanket pardons for entire groups of people without any look into their specific circumstances. Look at Meek Mill- a man the media is portraying as a victim on an over zealous criminal justice system. He was guilty of multiple violent crimes which resulted in probation. He failed to abide by the terms of his probation. He is no victim. He got a break and wasted it. Look at Cyntoia Brown who is portrayed as a victim. She murdered and robbed a man without justification. She murdered him when he was completely powerless and posed absolutely no threat. When we release criminals without any thought other, innocent, people pay the price. Let's stop being stupid about this issue and start evaluating criminals on a case-by-case basis- looking at the entire record.
Glenn Appell (Oakland, Ca)
This is an excellent response from some distinguished NFL players. . . . . too bad our so called President probably already forgot about his offer. Maybe we should add that we should "pardon" the thousands of immigrant children recently locked up for the crime of being with their parents.
A. Shoggoth (R'lyeh)
Thank you gentlemen, you certainly have the support of my family and friends.
Wonderfool (Princeton Junction, NJ)
This FakeDonald shold be convicted so that he can prdon himself. But his tax returns shold be exposed, his ill gotten property should be frozen and used to build a wall around his abode so he will be free but not able to get out. And his son and wife will not be with him. N pension, no trump library (he does not read anything anyway) except for a TV with one channel - the FOX news.
ari (nyc)
life sentence for non-violent drug crime is obscene. i hope trump pardons them. these guys are right.
Ryan (Aruba)
Where was this type of op-ed asking the sitting President to fix such a myriad of issues when Obama was in office? Will the NYT promise to publish similar material when Trump inevitably loses in 2020 and a Democrat steps into these same issues? Or will politics push these types of opinions out of the paper all of a sudden?
PG (Lake Orion)
Holy moly!!!! An accurate use of "whom" in a Times headline. Whom would have thought that possible!!!!
Keith Morrison (SLC)
Too funny. s/b "Who would have thought..." ('who' being the subject in your last sentence). ;-)
Pablo (MA)
Hear! Hear! Well said. Sadly, I'm sure Trump is considering how he might claim your suggestions as his own and turn them to his own political advantage.
Eugene Patrick Devany (Massapequa Park, NY)
Adding more arbitrary rules for: age 60, drug offences, 20-year sentences, and nonviolent fraud or drug offenses will make criminal justice as fair as … well football. Justice would best be served in the first instance by fixed sentence terms based on well-defined crimes - (that include overlooked factors of time spent in planning, recruitment of others, and real and potential violence). Those convicted should have the opportunity of presenting a plan of how to spend at least some of the time out of jail. Alternatives would consider 1) restitution, 2) cooperation with authorities, 3) productive work and 4) security of the community. The plan would would have to be comprehensive and supported by evidence that describes the Social Determinants of Health (see Wikipedia) with home video, witness statements, social media, school records and any other material that could be digitized and posted for many different types of people that could review and comment on it. The wisdom of the crowd could provide important input. Due process gives the accused many rights, but a person found guilty and sentenced to a time of supervision (presumptively in jail or prison) has no right to an expensive attorney and expensive court time. The guilty will have to rely on the help of non-profit agencies or pay to prepare a plan setting forth why they should be allowed to spend some or all their time in the community. Experts and the entire community should have a say in the process.
FCH (Deerfield)
The Times Pick falls into the same realm as those who say, "Let's just calm down here; we can talk about this like adults." And then he cites Bill Bradley and Jim Dunning, two white guys who did not play football. When will people realize that blacks have always had a difficult time being heard. No one believed Frederick Douglass wrote his own biography. Ida Wells Barnett made a few astute observations, and white mobs wanted to lynch her and destroyed her press. The fastest men in Mexico were pilloried for raising black gloved fists at the Olympics. The examples easily multiply. For those who have always had voice, they do not begin to understand the frustration and humiliation of not having voice. Yes, Senator Bill Bradley, Princeton, Rhodes Scholar, NBA champ had no trouble finding receptive platforms from which he could cooly, calmly make his arguments to a ready audience. The football players are using the best platform to which they have access. League officials, owners, fans are overwhelmingly white. For a couple minutes of silence, they can buy a lot of face time with their target audience. When we can honestly say that the United States is the "land of the free and home of the brave" we will all proudly stand.
Socrates (Downtown Verona. NJ)
America's 400-year rancid history of racism from Jamestown to Trumpism is a straight line of Whites R Us power, privilege and disgusting pride, perfectly embodied by the Birther-Liar-In-Chief and the 63 million Deplorables who supported him in 2016 and those who continue to support him. I am a white man and we should not expect great things from a Lowlife-In-Chief and his White Supremacy party who have flushed American down a Trump Toilet filled with White Wonder Bread. The solution is to register tens of millions of new voters who will vote in record numbers in November 2016 and in every election thereafter to restore civility, decency and democracy to America and rid the country once and for all of Trump's wretched white supremacy. “Racism does not have a good track record. It's been tried out for a long time and you'd think by now we'd want to put an end to it instead of putting it under new management." --- Thomas Sowell Register, vote and donate to democracy.
Gary (Sun City, AZ)
The NFL players are absolutely right: success can only be achieved by thinking and acting systematically . Acting systematically can best be done by applying the principle of reverse onus. Create now a reverse onus pilot project for two groups identified by the NFL players: (1) drug offenders over the age of 60 whose conviction is not recent and (2) those serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses. The default option in an expedited review of each such prisoner’s case should be release in all cases - unless a compelling public case is presented for retention.
Ralphie (CT)
I've been against the player protests because they are based on a false narrative -- that racist white cops are targeting and killing Black males. The reason that there is a disproportional number of Blacks shot and killed by cops is that the violent crime rate for Blacks is 3.5x that of Whites and the homicide rate is 7x. Cops have the job of arresting bad guys, sometimes those bad guys don't want to be arrested and sometimes that ends up badly for them. Any group that commits a hugely disproportional number of violent crimes will end up having a higher proportion of deadly encounters with cops (Blacks also account for about 50% of all killings of cops). But -- I agree with this column. So, instead of focusing on a false narrative, let's go after the prison-industrial complex. There are too many people -- from cops to lawyers to politicians to those who own the prisons -- who have a vested interest in jailing people who shouldn't be jailed. We need to jail people as a last resort and not as a normal part of the legal process. Violent criminals need to be jailed. And I can go along with jailing those who are known dealers and involved with violent gangs and the only way you can get them off the street is with a drug bust. But, let's the typical non violent offender? Although she's not Black, why in the heck send Martha Stewart to jail? That was just grand standing by Comey. And jailing poor people for petty crimes just perpetuates their condition.
Jay (Texas)
Thank you Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Benjamin Watson Footnote: former Texas Gov. Ann Richards had opened a pilot program at a prison in Kyle providing therapy and treating substance abuse. The experiment didn't last long. Soon George W. Bush replaced Ann and almost immediately ended the program. One would think a former chemical abuser would be sympathetic but not so in this law and order state. So much for compassion even in 1995. Words are cheap. What counts is action.
Seth (Louisville)
Sorry, but I don't take professional football players seriously. The culture that surrounds football is characterized by violence, sadism, narcissism, sexism, exploitation, greed, etc. Football players as social justice agitators is an oxymoron. Everyone is welcome to their opinion. But the fact that a group of professional football players gets their own NYT Opinion piece is the same reason we now have a reality TV star as president: celebrity is power. I shouldn't be surprised though. NYT became a purveyor of celebrity culture years ago. I can't wait for NYT to publish other opinion pieces by celebrities. Perhaps Jay Z and Beyonce will write a piece criticizing the 1% or the Kardashians will give us insight into the state of the American family.
Seth (Louisville)
NYT gives a platform to people who made a career out of televised, monetized barbarism (what are professional football players if not contemporary gladiators). The only reason these people are significant is because they are/were in the NFL. Why do they have any special say in this matter? There are countless law students and lawyers who actually work for those in trapped in the justice system that could have written a much better piece.
Steveh46 (Maryland)
Sorry Seth, but I don't take people seriously who dismiss whole groups of people without bothering to read their fact-based arguments. Maybe you should try being more open minded and see what happens.
B. (Brooklyn)
"Sorry, but I don't take professional football players seriously. The culture that surrounds football is characterized by violence, sadism, narcissism, sexism, exploitation, greed, etc. Football players as social justice agitators is an oxymoron." Don't criticize the football players, Seth. Americans pay to see their shows. That's why sports figures earn so much money. One can say the same about reality TV. If we spend our time and cash on spectator sports and not more intellectual pursuits, then it's no wonder that IQs are going down.
Dobby's sock (US)
Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Benjamin Watson Thank you for using your bully pulpit for good. You have a soap box, use it. You are being listened to and backed. Continue to call out the injustices rampant in our country and world. Well done gentlemen. Go Bronco's!!!
rpl (portland)
well done.
Ellen Q (Boston)
Very nice. Glad there are people like you in this world.
East/West (Los Angeles)
Too bad Trump doesn't read... or comprehend.
Don Polly (New Zealand)
Spot on!
M (Pennsylvania)
I am so thankful that the players, Colin Kaepernick especially, took a knee for the people of this country. If we had a nickel for every time someone complained that a guy spiked the ball inappropriately, or danced after a touchdown, we'd all be millionaires. most of us don't have the talent to play. Taking of a knee at our most publicly watched sport, created the conversation that continues. We should not be concerned with people being "confused" about why/how/what the protest is about. That's for each person to figure out for themselves. Amazing when people complain that someone else made them THINK....when they just tuned in to be entertained. Can't do both? The first amendment. If the NFL wants to come up with its own ridiculous tune that they insist players stand for, fine, that's their right and maybe their employees need to stand for that terrible song. The national anthem is the nations anthem....I can sit, stand, kneel, spit, holler or do whatever I like during it. Players are taking a knee and people are flipping out. Missing the point entirely, but wanting to control players like puppets. That's not how it works folks. Bravo players...keep going....the country needs this.
Gregory J. (Houston)
This should run as an ad on the front page of the paper.
Constance Warner (Silver Spring, MD)
Thank you, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Bodin, Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Watson, and the rest of the Players Coalition, for helping to bring public attention to this problem. You have a platform that the rest of us ordinary citizens do not; thank you for using it to promote the idea of mercy for people who could surely use it. I doubt that this president will listen to appeals to his better nature; he seems not to have one. But perhaps the next president will listen; too late for some nonviolent offenders who will die in prison in the mean time, but perhaps others, later on, will not have to die behind bars. I hope that in the future you will be able to point out the cases of others who deserve clemency and of some who should never have been in prison in the first place.
Soxared, '04, '07, '13 (Boston)
Gentlemen, you are to applauded roundly for your patriotism; for your concern for others who are at the bottom of the scale of society's interest; for advocating for those imprisoned for petty crimes; for taking the knee for police brutality. After reading this eloquent plea for presidential mercy, I can only hope that President Trump, whom you address with respect and not rancor, will find it within his heart to address your advocacy for the lesser among us. On another note, the National Football League, of whom about 70% of the players are of color, has marched in a strict lockstep with the president's view of professional athletes who are not content with their exquisite financial and material lot. Commissioner Roger Goodell and several of the 32 owners are adamantly opposed to players "taking a knee" on the field. What they should feel, as the patriotic citizens they so claim to be (I'm looking at you, Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys) is pride in your manly and humane approach to the several evils that daily attend our American society. They should be shamed after reading this piece, but this cynic doubts that they'll read it at all. You four men all point out that it is America's duty, as a nation under law and under God (as Republicans love to tell us) to provide for all of its citizens--not just some. The many non-violent incarcerated inmates should "take a knee" every day that they have men like you to run interference for them--off the playing field.
will duff (Tijeras, NM)
Can you imagine Stephen Miller reading this fine piece and summarizing it for Trump? (No amount of imagination sees Trump actually reading this himself.) How about a note from A.G. Sessions, summarizing these noble thoughts? Or a brief note about them from Don Jr.? Once you visualize any of these unlikely events, your imagination might supply the awful things those notes might contain.
Robert (St Louis)
"This is our America, our right." Yes, you have the right to protest at NFL games. Yes, the league and the owners have the right to fine you and ban you from football if they so desire.
TheTruth (State of Awareness)
As with the Kim Kardashian/Alice Walker pardon, rich, famous people are heard, regardless of merit. Kardashian had no special knowledge or insight, she was parroting what she'd been told or read in the course of 10 minutes of online research. Same here - NFL players have a voice for no obvious reason. Why are drug offenders a higher percentage of federal inmates? Because federal law covers very few crimes, and has focused on drug crimes in in response to the crack epidemic of the 1980s, etc. Ask a parent who has lost a child to the scourge of drugs whether tens of thousands of "nonviolent" drug dealers should be pardoned. The authors also ignore obvious solutions: Want to avoid a lengthy federal drug sentence? Don't deal drugs. Want to avoid police brutality? Use these simple phrases (that I use): Yes Sir, No Sir, etc. Even if you believe you're being treated unfairly, your remedy is in court or filing a complaint, not an altercation on the street. Almost all police officers do their best in a very tough job. When we forget that, and make the job more difficult (as in Baltimore), the murder rate soars and people suffer. Yes, deal with bad cops, but acknowledge that they are the tiny minority and value the rest. We live in the greatest, most equal and free non-homogenous society in history. We should strive to make it better, but we should also appreciate everything we've already got.
jeito (Colorado)
"We live in the greatest, most equal and free non-homogenous society in history." I think you missed the major point of this editorial: that we are a very unequal society. It's not enough to say yes sir, no sir; the proportion of African Americans arrested, charged, and convicted is significantly higher in comparison with other populations here in America. As we are witnessing through dissemination of videotaped encounters, African Americans are subject to a high level of harassment for simply going about their lives, and are more likely to be arrested because of this. I applaud the NFL players for speaking up against the systemic racism inherent in our justice system.
Frank Barone (Wisconsin, USA)
Yes yes yes. I’m with you. I kneel with you. Empathy, integrity and justice. Keep writing and asking.
Snickers (Seattle)
Thank you for this piece. Please keep talking and getting your message out. We cannot let people be bullied into silence. Know that you are heard and supported by many, and the more you lay out the reasons for your protest, the less Trump can falsely define it.
drspock (New York)
I salute these players and the Players Coalition. This clearly demonstrates that what began as a protest has now matured into a serious campaign. Now it's incumbent on the rest of us who also believe in a just, compassionate society to support this effort. Fire up your Tweets, send copies to your local and congressional representatives and during this campaign season, ask office seekers to endorse these demands. Some serious changes can be made by the president. Others will require legislation, but let's put the politician's feet to the fire and find out where they stand on these issues. If you support them, you may have my vote, regardless of which party you are from. But if you don't, you can expect my opposition to your candidacy because it will be clear that your vision of a just society is not the same as mine.
jlewis (Dallas, Texas)
The 2018 NFL football season is almost here. The offer of a list of recommendations for pardon is like a carrot with a glass shard inside. If you accept the offer it will be used as a weapon against those who continue to kneel in protest. If you refuse the offer it will be used as a weapon against you when those fingers get twitchy for Twitter at 2 am. This President does nothing that doesn't serve his self-glorification. I wish you well as you ponder your response.
Michael Green (Brooklyn)
While we should not advocate for drug use, we should legalize all drugs including heroine, cocaine and methamphetamine. A great failing of the current decriminalization of marijuana is that we are not clearly saying, Marijuana is a Serious Drug with many Potentially Harmful Effects. We have gone from criminalization to advocacy. That said, drug laws are counter productive and should be eliminated. Mexican drug cartels would be robbed of their revenue. It would benefit every Latin American nation which sends drugs to America. Most important, American drug users would no longer be poisoned by drugs of questionable quality and potency. We could spend the money we spend on criminal justice and incarceration on all kinds of social programs. The allure of the drug culture would disappear. Instead of looking cool, challenging authority, drug use would appear as it really is pathetic. Most important, on what basis does the government regulated what an adult individual ingests if he is supporting himself and living on private property. Drug laws are an affront to individual liberty. Of course we can't legalize drugs, it would put too many people out of work. Police officers, government and private lawyers, judges, prison guards, social workers, drug counselors, rehabs all earn their livings from the War on Drugs.
Nick R (Fremont, CA)
Such a wonderful plan. However, we shouldn't forget that Trump donors own private prisons and detention centers. Empty prison cells much like empty hotel rooms are bad for business.
Claire (Chevy Chase MD)
Well done gentlemen. This is much better than anything trump has ever spoken.
Maureen Steffek (Memphis, TN)
This is an excellent response to Trump's suggestion. It is thoughtful, factual and well written. What it really does is lay out the facts behind the players protests in such a way that it is impossible to support the idea that they are unpatriotic. These men are behaving in a totally patriotic manner by bringing attention to a festering American injustice wrought by the very governments that are supposed to be the insurers of equality before the law. That is the role of every American citizen. This should never have been about patriotism, but that is a classic Trump bait and switch move."ignore the message, shoot the messenger". It is time for all the adults in the room to start acting like adults. This country has a lot of problems, most of them self inflicted. Fear is a very real human emotion. But by stoking fear politically to gain votes, the Republican Party has created an atmosphere it cannot control. We all need to exhibit the same level of patriotism shown in this article.
Joseph Huben (Upstate New York)
Excellent essay. I hope the NFLPA defies the ban on taking a knee. It is so important that Trump’s mischaracterization of those who “Take a Knee” is condemned as just another lie that promotes racism and institutional prejudice by law enforcement toward all non White Americans. It should become a matter of patriotic citizens demonstrating against murder of unarmed suspects. Call upon Baseball Players, Basketball players to take a knee. Call on fans and sponsors to take a knee until institutional racism is outlawed and special prosecutors are mandated in all cases in which police kill unarmed suspects.
I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this op-ed. I appreciate that this group did not attack President Trump personally. I want to state that my objection to kneeling for the anthem is based on the belief that protesting is a personal decision and should not take place at work. If I were to walk out of my classroom to protest something I found unjust, I would be fired.
jeito (Colorado)
Teachers walked out of their classrooms in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Colorado this spring to protest injustice in education funding. Their voices were heard far and wide because of their protest in ways that teachers were not heard before. It awoke many to the systemic underfunding of our public education system. These NFL players are doing the same, and their success lies in the fact that we are having this conversation. Sometimes drastic actions are necessary to move the ball forward, in this case towards equity and justice.
barna5150 (Columbus OH)
What about the lives these drug offenders destroyed? The case needs to be looked at on an individual basis. If a dealer is responsible for multiple overdoses and/or destroying multiple families, is that not akin to murder or manslaughter?? "Non-violent" offender is a loose term. Killing someone doesn't necessarily equate to a violent act.
oldteacher (Norfolk, VA)
Thank you all for this thoughtful and compelling piece. Although you are preaching to the proverbial choir, this member of the choir appreciates it!! Keep protesting. Do as much as you can because you are in a position of prominence and celebrity that gives you some protection. And those of us out here who can't do much, are grateful that you are doing it for us. Sadly, as an old teacher, I have to say, will anyone who thinks Donald Trump reads the NYTimes please raise your hand.
broz (boynton beach fl)
When? When will the discussion begin? When will the points made (all can be verified) be supported and appropriate laws enacted? When will those locked away in darkness be able to see the light of day? When will equality of all citizens be reached? When will each life be valued by the air they breathe and not by their skin color? When will the unnecessary lives taken be stopped? When?
Tom (Pennsylvania)
Good op-ed. I can only hope that this triggers a real dialogue, rather than political posturing, etc.
michjas (phoenix)
Mass release from prison is not what Colin Kaepernick is about. He is about working in oppressed communities and helping those who live there. I think he's got the right idea. He has already given about $1 million to countless small organizations fighting the good fight against poverty, discrimination, and violence. He has probably already helped thousands. Mass release of prisoners is a dubious undertaking. It makes sense to release them one by one. Otherwise you can make big mistakes. I don't think you'll find much of anybody in prison for life for nonviolent drug use. More likely, they're in prison because of three strike laws and the last strike was drug related. At any rate, I doubt Colin Kaepernick would favor the release of thousands of felons into the communities he is building . PS, we miss Anquan Boldin in Phoenix.
B. (Brooklyn)
Yes, precisely. NFL players make a lot of money, and if they want to help communities of color they'll funnel much of that money into job creation, after-school tutoring, and birth control. Those who limit their families to the number they can care for responsibly and independently produce kids who, for the most part, do well in school and in life. Those who begin having babies at 15 and do not stop are not doing their babies any good at all. Generations of irresponsible baby-making has made inequality far worse than it had been. I can say the same for rural white Americans, but that's not the subject at hand.
Amy Luna (Chicago)
An excellent plea for compassion for non-violent drug offenders. However, I disagree that all people over 60 "pose little to no risk to society" simply because of their age. A violent or manipulative psychopath of any age is a risk to all they encounter. The assertion that the "elderly" pose "no risk" is actually an archaic ageist view of aging that assumes all seniors are frail and ineffectual. Stereotypes and assumptions about people because of their age are just as flawed as stereotypes and assumptions about people because of their race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
Dee (Out West)
The offer made to NFL players by the president makes little sense. Yes, there are thousands of people locked up with unnecessarily harsh sentences during the ‘War on Drugs’ who deserve pardons. When those involved were predominantly minority, it was a war, while the current predominantly ‘white’ problem is an ‘epidemic’. The NFL player protests denounce current racial injustice - police killing a black motorist for having a broken taillight. Pardons correct a past injustice while doing nothing about the present. Pardons - yes, certainly; but also address the racist and trigger-happy cops who shoot without cause, then are rewarded with paid leave for their crime. Unpaid leave would be a start, detention for the most egregious.
JSN (Savannah)
Trump's always taking about saving money. Think of the millions or even billions of dollars this would save!
Calimom (Oakland ca)
The case has never been made more clearly and succinctly. Thank you for using your platform for such a good cause. May you get support from other professional athletes in other sports.
Leigh (Qc)
Touchdown! Trump may not care for the common sense expressed and argued in this fine op-ed since following it would hardly endear him to his 'base' but the advice offered by these players, if he did follow it, could turn his administration from a dangerous joke on America (and the world) into one that squarely confronted and pushed back against the hatred of die hard racists and put the country on track on again to realizing it's finest aspirations of being a light unto the world. The Mall will a need a new monument - one to Trump - should he ever be bright and brave enough, for once, to do the right thing.
Norm (Norwich)
I wonder what incarcerated relatives of NFL players will say when they don’t get proposed for a pardon.
Elizabeth A (NYC)
There is actually bipartisan consensus on much of this. Fiscal conservatives recognize the enormous dollar cost of mass incarceration, and progressives are concerned about the societal harm. But as the parties become more polarized over other issues, change seems less and less likely.
CPMariner (Florida)
Many of us who aren't reporting for spring training agree with you entirely. Having recently experienced so-called justice at the local level through my brother-in-law, I can testify to some of the horrors of it. First, judges are often detached mentally and emotionally from the realities of life "on the street" as well as in jail. Some of them are entirely indifferent to the life experiences of those who come before them charged with petty non-violent crimes. Such judges practice "one size fits all" justice, as though an accused raised by a single parent in an impoverished neighborhood should reach adulthood imbued with the same social values set as the kid who was raised across town in a gated community and attended a private school. In a perverse form of "one size fits all", many judges (and juries) are guilty of the presumption of guilt based on race, so that "all" has entirely different meanings as applied to whites versus other races. The "other all" can rarely afford decent legal representation, and sentences are applied based on race. Conditions in jails and prisons exceed the worst imaginings of those who haven't experienced our justice system, and all too often, so-called "Corrections Officers" are on the wrong side of the bars. It's a sick system - with barbaric sentencing guidelines applied to non-violent drug offenses- and there's simply NO DENYING that race is a MAJOR symptom of the system's disease.
David Katz (Seattle)
This is poignant, candid and ever so logical. Thank goodness we have such citizens among us as these.
david (outside boston)
i agree wholeheartedly. i'm almost in tears thinking of how unfair it is that some of our fellow citizens are treated in ways described here. and i long for the day when right-thinking leaders do the Right Thing!
Tim Moffatt (Orillia Ontario )
Extremely well expressed. The sad thing is that its lost on Trump, because not only can't he read or comprehend it, he can't feel it. That's the greater tragedy.
wkaplan1 (New York, NY)
This is the most clarifying statement I've ever read about why protests against American injustice during the playing of the national anthem at athletic events are fully justified. Keep up the fight for equality for all.
Tomas (Dayton, OH)
This editorial makes excellent points and certainly deserves the attention of the president. I wonder if he is capable of concentrating on the content and meaning of the words long enough to make it past the third paragraph.
Candace Young (Cambridge)
I particularly love your last paragraph and wish it could be the mantra we all live by.
Kerry (Florida)
A good question is embedded in this well-written piece: Why do we think our prison system is the best place to treat addiction and mental illness? Or, if we don't think it is such a great place to treat these things--then why are we choosing to fight addiction and mental illness with our prison system?
J. Waddell (Columbus, OH)
While I believe we incarcerate too many people, I question whether there are really huge numbers of people effectively sentenced to life in prison for non-violent drug offenses. Given the ubiquity of plea bargains, I wonder if most of those with very long sentences actually committed violent crimes that were plea bargained down to lesser offenses. I know the Obama administration planned to pardon or commute the sentences of those with unjustifiably long sentences for non-violent offenses but in the end could only find a handful of cases that met that standard.
Astrochimp (Seattle)
The simplest but most effective solution to this problem: end prison privatization. End the private profit from incarcerating people. I'm not optimistic this will happen, though, since privatization of public assets and functions is so important to the Republican Party as a political fundraiser.
Anna Kavan (Colorado)
The writers are on the right track. I'd like them to question why their salaries are so high, and think about redistributing some of those dollars to education. They've clearly benefited from it.
andrew (NJ)
Kind of a misdirection. I'm sure these players give of their own time and money to various causes, educational included.
L Blair (Portland, OR)
I am not a fan of professional sports but NFL players support many philanthropic causes including education: Regarding their salaries, there have been numerous analyses showing that the average NFL player's compensation is not as high as many people think and the careers of most players end in just a few years. Unlike CEOs that make millions, players risk serious physical injuries including CTE. If high salaries in the NFL are your criteria for contributing to the funding of education, how about the NFL owners, Roger Goddell and other NFL execs? And why just the NFL?
Rick Spanier (Tucson)
Some rough numbers: the average salary in the NFL is $2 million per year. The average career of an NFL player is 5 years. These men earn, on average, $10 million over the course of their careers and represent those who have qualified to play in the highest echelon of professional sports. They also place themselves at risk of serious physical injury including lifelong brain damage. Comparing these professional athletes to the average working person or professional defies logic. It would be better to compare them with professional actors, musicians and writers (entertainers) who enjoy similar high salaries but with careers that span decades, not years.
Mon Ray (Skepticrat)
I am sure there are many prison inmates who might deserve clemency. I also agree there is much room for improvement in the US judicial and prison systems. However, I think it is totally crazy to suggest that tens of thousands of convicted felons be put back on the streets though an act of Presidential clemency or blanket pardons. Even if only half or even a quarter of them recidivate, that means thousands of innocent people will unnecessarily be victimized. (This reminds me of 1980, when Castro allowed a couple thousand criminals to emigrate from Cuba to the US; good riddance for Cuba, bad news for the US.) It is also necessary to consider what will become of any released inmates who have no family to return to, who are ill, who have no job skills and who have no means of support. Tens of thousands of convicts dumped on already-strained welfare and social-service systems will require more funds and personnel. Further, presumably some sort of monitoring and tracking system will be required to ensure that any of those released who recidivate are swiftly returned to prison.
Larry W (Blaine, WA)
Read the piece again. It is about nonviolent offenders who, for the most part, committed crimes that did not have victims. So at age 60 or above, who are they likely to “victimize?” And by all means let’s keep them in prison where it will be “cheaper” for us as a society. Makes for more tax cuts for us. That’s the logic of your argument. Your thought process, along with Trump’s, is exactly what these gentlemen are attempting to change. I support them and wish them well.
rpl (portland)
so deny them their liberty because they or the system won't be able to handle it?
Amanda (Texas)
After one does her time, she doesn’t need to be monitored. Unless that’s also a part of a deferred sentence or house arrest.
Glen (Texas)
Gentlemen, well said. But don't expect much in the way of a response. Remember whom you are dealing with. Don't lose sight of the fact that Kim Kardashian, a "10" in Trump's grading system of women, requested the freeing of Alice Johnson. Had she not been beautiful and famous, she would never have gotten Trump's attention. Had one of you made the request ... but that's a moot point. Odds are, none of you would have been given the time of day, let alone an audience with the president, especially for that purpose. That said, I still encourage you to try to break through to Trump in the months leading up to the start of the professional football season. If he pays attention, then acts to implement at least some of your suggestions, then let the season begin under the rules recently laid down regarding acceptable "behavior" during the playing of the national anthem. But if, as I suspect will be the case, you find yourselves ignored, the proper response would be for all black players to take the field during the first game and, to a man, kneel during the "Star Spangled Banner." Since kneeling means not playing, what would be the outcome? There are not two teams in all of professional football that can field 22 white players to play both directions in a game. You can effectively shut down the NFL until real attention is paid, by Trump, by your fans, even by folks like me, who couldn't if we tried, care less about the game. In either case. Good luck to all of you.
ClarissaW (DC)
What about a national anthem deserves unthinking respect. Why do we tie our allegiances to a song? It's time to stop it.
Jean (Cleary)
"His ability to change the lives of people for the better is immense". It is and he uses that ability for himself, family, his donors, corporations and the 1%. Ever since Trump has been elected those are the only people he cares about. The Alice Johnson case was a publicity stunt and nothing more. Trump has no sense of justice which is proven over and over, every day. The latest proof of that is the separation of children from their immigrant parents. Trump ran for President on a platform of ridicule for disabled people, ridicule of Obama, the most dignified President and family man we had as President, ridicule of immigrants, ridicule of NFL players who dared to "take a knee" to protest police brutality. I commend your stand for Justice. I am behind you 100%. AndI hope it works, even if Trump uses it as a publicity stunt. Because publicity is all he is seeking to keep the heat off of him and distract all of us from paying attention to the Mueller investigation. I hope, that in the not too distant future you can take your pleas directly to a new President who has a sense of justice and morality.
Peter (Worcester)
Well said
E. Shields (North Carolina)
The thoughts and suggestions of these four NFL players are good. They offer potential solutions to challenges we face and merit additional thought and consideration by everyone... including Trump, members of Congress, and Governors across the country. Those potential solutions also present additional challenges because they would essentially release into society many (how many I don’t know) who would likely not likely “do well” and who would require support, training/education, etc. Releasing such folks from prison without such assistance would be “criminal” in itself - for both the prisoners and society. Additionally, such action should involve more than the President, no matter who he/she may be. Urging an already power-hungry President to issue sweeping “blanket pardons”... a President who seemingly has respect and affection for dictator/strongmen leaders... is not likely the best way to resolve our challenges!
Don goens (Flossmoor)
Very well stated. I appreciate your activism on behalf of those who have been unjustly treated in our society. You have a moral compass that, unfortunately, seems to be lacking in our country. This has been true since its founding, slowing bending toward justice. You are not using your platform to solely enrich yourselves and your cronies, or for career gain. In fact, because of the hate filled bigotry that has been stirred up, you will get more backlash and resentment. It takes courage and strong moral convictions to speak up and not remain silent and complicit when you see injustice. I do not plan to watch football because of the action taken by the owners regarding the players, but I will continue to support you and the values you express. I salute you gentlemen!
BTO (Somerset, MA)
Good article and the NFL players should keep up their peaceful protests as it's every Americans right to do and the only way a dialog will get started.
OldBoatMan (Rochester, MN)
This is a splendid op-ed, easily one of the best published in the past year. The Constitutional powers of pardon and clemency existed long before January 20, 2017. Past Presidents have failed and refused to use that power to mitigate the results of unjust laws. President Trump is not likely to use his power in the sweeping ways you suggest. And that is too bad.
Charlierf (New York, NY)
Convicts are not in there for what they’re in there for. The convict officially imprisoned for a nonviolent crime has, in fact, most often plead down from a violent reality - and a violent past. So the essential outrage underlying this article is simply untrue. Ordinary men with a marijuana cigarette do not go to jail. The guys in jail have hurt people and have stolen hard-earned property. Real criminals are a real problem and if you do not like mass incarceration you had best come up with a real alternative.
Rachel (AL)
How about you educate yourself about mass incarceration and its roots. Also while you're at it educate yourself about the War on Drugs, then come back with a more informed and accurate opinion.
Ed (ny)
Ordinary White men do not go to jail for possession of a joint or two. Ordinary nonwhite men often go to jail, and for possession of a joint or two, and are then sent to prison because they are unable to pay for adequate legal represeentation.
Charlierf (New York, NY)
Ed, James Comey said that he has never, that’s never, seen anyone jailed just for possession of a small quantity of marijuana.
Mr. Slater (Brooklyn, NY)
They've been protesting but what else? Where have these players been all these years? We had a Black president who was well aware of this and he didn't do it. And look at the damage done to those communities - disinvestment all around - from schools, to real estate, to business. So many victims left in the wake.
Rachel (AL)
So the devastation started with Obama 8 years ago. Thanks for that.
ZenShkspr (Midwesterner)
Whenever I see athletes or entertainers give such genuine attention to a greater cause than themselves, I'm very proud. It's such a nice small gesture to wear pink, hold a fundraiser, have a moment of prayer, salute servicemen, or mention something close to your heart that thousands of fans may take an interest in - other than, say, your shoe sponsor. By taking it to the next level with thought, investment, and prominent peaceful nonviolence, these athletes are bringing everything they have to being compassionate active citizens. They are role models I can be happy about the kids in my life looking up to.
Amy Luna (Chicago)
Before we put these athletes on pedestals for their characters, remember that these are the same athletes that play football every week next to objectified, pornified cheerleaders being paid less than minimum wage and pimped to high rolling donors (as the New York Times recently reported). I would be impressed if these men would also take a vocal stand against that injustice happening literally right in front of them in their own institution. Men of color standing up for other men of color is admirable. Men standing up for women is also admirable. It takes a special kind of courage and integrity for those in the group with power, resources and a voice (male athletes) to speak up for those with little power, resources or voice (NFL cheerleaders).
dupr (New Jersey)
The NFL needs to get rid of cheerleaders. They serve no value to the game at all unless you are a man. Why should men of color stand up for primarily "white cheerleaders"? Cheerleading in the "Me Too" movement needs to become obsolete. I hope more professional teams just get rid of them.
Amy Luna (Chicago)
Why should men of color stand up for primarily "white cheerleaders"? Among many reasons, because on June 23, 2013 five members of the Vanderbilt football team (white and black), enabled by several other football players (white and black), gang raped an unconscious white female member of the school's dance squad (a.k.a. cheerleader). After the attack, the team members who knew about the attack kept silent while the perpetrators gaslighted the victim. And this is not an isolated case. Clearly there's a need for professional male athletes to serve as role models and send a clear message to other men that women--of all colors--are not rewards or enticements to be handed to athletes, recruits, owners or donors--or to be taken by force.
jabarry (maryland)
This entreaty to the president is enlightened and stated eloquently. The shame is, it will fall on deaf ears. Except for the readers of The Times who understand the purpose of the protest made by citizen football players in the first place. I support the protests. Like other celebrities, professional football players enjoy access to a public platform on which they can raise public awareness of issues too often ignored by our elected officials. Please keep using this platform to raise our collective consciousness. Regarding the issue of drug addiction and incarceration. Our nation has long treated drug addiction, a medical condition, as a crime. When Richard Nixon began the 'war on drugs' in the 1970's the medical issues were little understood, but long ago we learned that drug addiction is a medical issue not a criminal issue. We need to change our attitudes toward people abusing illicit drugs. They are not 'addicts' who need to be imprisoned; they are people who became dependent on a drug and need medical treatment to recover. Instead of spending billions of dollars on arresting, prosecuting and housing people with drug disabilities in prisons, why not spend the money on getting them into medically approved rehabilitation to get their lives back? And while were at it, lets spend money on better recruitment and training of people we place trust and empower to enforce our laws and keep us safe. They should not be a force of intimidation and terror to any citizen.
rpe123 (Jacksonville, Fl)
This is fine but why not address the social and economic issues that get so many people into prison in the first place. We spend hundreds of millions a year on illegal border crossings. We could be using money like that to invest in social and education programs in our inner cities. Or maybe take a chunk of the military budget.
walkman666 (Nyc)
Well written and thoughtful essay. Accurate and big picture thinking, too. Your voices need to be heard.
cato (wisconsin )
if you want Trump or his party to listen, then you need to attach a dollar value to incarcerating these people. They act more on money and less on social justice.
jgbrownhornet (Cleveland, OH)
The president should set up a commission to study these proposals and make recommendations. Food for thought.
MIndful (In Ohio)
Thank you for writing this, and thank you NYT for publishing it. I would like to know who profits from the incarceration of these poor souls. I’m sure that is at the heart of this terrible path we have chosen in this country.
Law-abiding citizens benefit when criminals are incarcerated.
DWR (Boston)
WOWZA. Thank you for a brilliant, insightful, compassionate and patriotic commentary.
Barry B (New Hope PA)
Thank you for stating so beautifully that which should be obvious and intuitive to our leaders. Sadly it isn't, as the welfare of the many offers too few opportunities for the obscene personal enrichment of the few, one of the primary goals of this administration.
Disillusioned (NJ)
Yes,, yes and yes. Keep speaking out. It is our nation's only hope.
Steve (longisland)
Pardons must be given sparingly, after deep consultation with DOJ lawyers and quiet prayer, and most importantly, only according to justice. This has always been Trump's policy beginning with Sherrif Joe until now.
Dennis Maxwell (Charleston, SC 29412)
Deep consultation? Prayer? Justice? Trump's got a policy? I'm going back to bed.
GetReal (DC)
Really hope the sarcasm font just failed to come through on this one.
Chuffy (Brooklyn)
Do the authors hold that selling heroin or coke is a nonviolent crime? There is a tremendous violence to families and whole neighborhoods, while populations of people that result from the heroin trade, the opiates trade. Consider another “nonviolent “ offender: Bernard Madoff. Do the authors feel his life sentence was too harsh?
Ross (Newtown, PA)
Bernie Madoff did not receive a life sentence. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Yes, there is a difference between these two sentences.
jdr1210 (Yonkers, NY)
It is my firm belief that in order to make America great again "...citizens who embrace the values of empathy, integrity and justice,..." will need to take the country back from those who do not. Those values used to inform our politics. Now all we are left with is grievance, greed and grotesque incivilty. Football player or not every decent person with a public profile is needed in this age of celebrity worship. When men like the authors put humanity and decency above endorsement dollars all of America wins.
Joseph Thomas Gatrell (Blue Island, IL)
This is letter is so very positive and informative. Every elected or appointed official who can act on these suggestions and bring them to fruition should do so. The anthem protests, if they should be called that, served a purpose. Let respectful free speech in all forms reign. It brings about changes. As we read in this piece and as we have painfully witnessed with those so desperate to enter our country, it is time for some long-overdue changes to make our country and the world better.
Paul Atreides (Calladan)
An eloquent and well considered piece. It's admirable for those with a platform rooted in the violence and instant gratification of our culture, to use that voice to call for compassion, justice and the establishment of basic human rights. However, my concern is that our nation is no longer united. The trend, possibly begun in the Reagan era, is divisiveness, confrontation and opposition, regardless of the topic. We seem to have reached an apex with our current national and local leaders, where the goal is not unity, and care for each other, rather, the sole objective is to "win". With that premise in mind, it is unlikely that any appeals to reason or compassion will be heard and even more likely, that the opposite will continue to escalate.
That's worth sitting out the Anthem. Injustices occur inside our courtrooms and parole hearings, more so than on our streets.
EK Sommer (Gainesville FL)
Thank you so much for publicly and eloquently stating what so many of us believe and feel. I feel helpless to do anything most of the time and I appreciate the effort that went into these words. We must gather together and make lasting changes to support all people with equal justice and opportunities. How can we otherwise be called humans?
Ruralist (Upstate)
Thanks for providing specific actions that should be taken, and why. This approach will help turn attention into action.
WhiskeyJack (Helena, MT)
Well spoken and hopefully a good start to a more rational discussion. When I read about people being sentenced at a level that is way, way beyond what makes any reasonable sense, I wonder what the judge and others in the system could have been thinking? And if laws binds them to such inhumanity, its long past time to change these laws!
avrds (montana)
I am a strong supporter of those in the NFL speaking out against injustice, and applaud these players for so eloquently making their case. I hope President Trump not only acknowledges what you have written, but also hears and responds to what you are saying. That said, when Trump says he wants to pardon those who have been "unfairly treated by the justice system," I don't think he means people unfairly jailed for drugs and other nonviolent offenses. I think he means him and his friends.
Robert Pryor (NY)
I would carry the players’ proposal a few steps further. It is time to decriminalize all sales of illegal drugs. The money used for police, judges, lawyers, jails etc. needs to be placed into free medical treatment . Furthermore, society would be better served if the stigma associated with the use of drugs was removed. The 21st century LGBTQ movement shows what can be accomplished, albeit slowly, when committed activist unite and confront a problem.
Charlierf (New York, NY)
Not too many years ago it was common to hear NBA players thank their grandmas, not their mothers, for raising them. That was the crack epidemic which was slashed by long sentences for dealers.
Robert Pryor (NY)
Drug addiction is an American issue. Not just an African American issue.
DDC (<a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a>)
This is an excellent article written by four informed and thoughtful citizens. I do hope that a group of forward thinking political leaders pursue the reforms and pardons outlined in this op-Ed.
wfisher1 (Iowa)
I do too. But, alas, it will never happen unless we all vote in the Midterms and elect Democrats. That is the only way we will move towards a more just and moral society. The only way, as I don't think we can expect Republicans to suddenly turn from Trump and do the right thing.
Josh Hill (New London)
Valid points and I support you, with one exception. Those who sell heroin or crack did not commit minor offenses, however "non-violent" they may have been. I've seen what those drugs do to people and communities. At 63, I still know more people who died from heroin than any other cause. The people who sell those drugs know exactly what they're doing. Society doesn't make moral monsters worse than that.
Don goens (Flossmoor)
You forgot Cocaine, the drug of choice for the rich who can afford high priced lawyers. You forgot alchol, the drug that results in more deaths than all the illicit drugs combined.
Joe Wagner (NE FL)
The largest supplier of heroin-related projects is the pharmaceutical and medical industry (opioid endemic). If low-level drug offenders and sellers were treated the same as those folks, we would be having a much more useful conversation on the issue.
Dobby's sock (US)
Sure society has worse monsters. Those that choose to rip children away from refugees for blackmail, hostage taking, and torture. With a profit motive for their crony's. THAT is lower than the street dealers pedaling smack to junkies that want and need their fix. They made choices. Those children didn't. How about the killing millions and unhoming tens of millions for political greed and oil? Maybe purposefully allowing lead into the public water system. Then lying about it for months and then allowing it to continue without fixing it or acknowledging the issue?! Nor the tens of thousands of children that are permanently damaged and the $$$ to be spent trying to educate and train these damaged brains. Sure, dealers are a scourge. But the lowest of our society monsters? They are small time. Look to our politicians and MIC for the damage done on a world wide scale.
Tyson (Philadelphia)
Pro athletes returning to being political again is such an inspiring turn after the general hiatus of the 1980s and 1990s. Jenkins is incredibly well informed and very committed to the redressing the injustice of the justice system. He’s also an amazing safety (go eagles!)
Martha Sweezy (Northampton, Massachusetts )
Beautifully said! Thank you for your clarity, courage and leadership.
stever (NE)
This is a good essay. Many good thoughts are brought up. And they are screaming for attention right now! Keep up the non-violent fight for justice and visibility. I wonder what the soccer/football players at the WC can do now for justice in their own countries?
Upstate Guy (Upstate NY)
At first thought it may seem humane and wise to release non-violent drug offenders that have already served long sentences, but what would become of these elderly convicts upon release? There may not be family left to support them and I doubt our current administration would have either the foresight or sympathy to help.
rtj (Massachusetts)
"There may not be family left to support them and I doubt our current administration would have either the foresight or sympathy to help." That's not a reason to keep them in jail.
Rhporter (Virginia)
So for their own good you say keep them in prison? Ah such flights of mercy!
Joe Wagner (NE FL)
Prison should never be an acceptable alternative to an elder care center. Treat them on the outside. It is cheaper and more humane.
frankly 32 (by the sea)
This is the kind of opinion piece I like: rooted in the community, written by people who know what they are talking about, and offering facts and insights that would not likely have occurred to me. And it makes clear the effect of football scholarships in the creation of educated and informed citizens. These are American champions.
Mon Ray (Skepticrat)
Someone help me out, please. According to Kapaernick himself, his kneeling actions were initially carried out to protest against police violence directed toward blacks. Now, according to this article, the kneeling has morphed into a protest for pardons or clemency for prisoners (I hope not just blacks) who are said to deserve pardons or clemency. Do all the protesting NFL players themselves, individually, know what they are protesting for or about on any given day? Does anyone? Do players get updated talking points before they are interviewed on TV or by a newspaper reporter? Or is NFL television programming just a convenient venue for some people to protest whatever the cause du jour happens to be? I used to enjoy watching football; never again, or at least not while the NFL is being used as a political football, so to speak. If I want political rabble-rousing I'll watch the shouting heads on Sunday morning TV.
dg (nj)
Two questions, Mon Ray, that you could kindly clarify for me: 1- So the Civil Rights movement should have stopped after the Montgomery bus boycott? Once the buses were desegregated, there was no need to advance to larger goals? 2 - Did you stop watching football when the national anthem and Star-Spangled became the required openers for all televised games?
Mon Ray (Skepticrat)
According to Kapaernick, his kneeling actions were initially carried out to protest against police violence directed toward blacks. Now, according to this article, the kneeling has somehow morphed into a protest on behalf of prisoners who are said to deserve pardons or clemency. This article is written by black football players about on-TV protests primarily by black football players. If the writers are calling for clemency for deserving prisoners of all races, that should be made clear. If the writers are calling for clemency only for black prisoners, that sounds racist to me, and certainly requires justification (if that is even possible). Do all the protesting NFL as individuals know what they are protesting for or about on any given day? Does anyone? Do players get updated talking points before they are interviewed on TV or by a newspaper reporter? Who prepares the talking points? Or are NFL TV broadcasts just a good venue for some people to protest whatever their cause du jour may be? Since the protests are broadening from police violence to pardons, I wonder if reparations are next to be brought up, either by the NLF protesters or even the NYT. (I am a Democrat, and some of my far-left friends are already pushing for a reparations plank in the 2020 Democratic platform.) I once enjoyed watching pro football, never again while the NFL is being used as a political football, so to speak. If I want political agitation I'll watch the shouting heads on Sunday morning TV.
Dan (Atlanta)
I teach a lot of college football players. This essay is far better than anything I’ve ever received in my American government class from them. I hope this set of thoughtful and well researched remarks inspires these students to think about their role among these larger set of issues. As citizens.
S (C)
Assign this article as a reading for your students. Ask them to write a response (whether agree, disagree, or question) that is equally well written. That would be a great and timely assignment.
HokieRules (Blacksburg VA)
Thank you for this thoughtful essay. I, too, love America and agree with what is being said here.
Deborah (Ithaca, NY)
This is a heartfelt and sensible argument. There’s just one problem. Donald Trump is not a fair man, with a heart, who seeks justice. What Trump wants is the spotlight. What Trump wants is marching soldiers and tanks passing before his grandstand. What Trump wants is an elevated stage in front of bellowing, flushed supporters. What Trump wants is obedience from thousands ... like the obedience demonstrated by Kim Jung-un’s goosesteoping troops, coordinated cheerleaders, and terrified citizens. What Trump wants is money. And more money. What Trump wants is hamburgers and two scoops of ice cream. What Trump wants is hairspray and a tanning bed and sex on the side near a golf course. What Trump wants is to look like a tough guy though clearly he’s a plump, lifelong coward. And a fake. He may have pardoned one female prisoner. He also pardoned Joe Arpaio, a vicious man. For Trump, it’s all a game, a calculated performance. His “base” would be unhappy if he freed a number of prisoners — including African-Americans — from their cells and set them loose. He won’t do it.
jkemp (New York, NY)
These gentlemen raise good points and I agree with many of them. If you have access to a newspaper's editorial page there's no reason to protest at football games. Protests at games become confused with anti-Americanism and conflict with people enjoying themselves without being lectured to. There's no right to freedom of speech at work. I can not give speeches to my clients without being fired. There are probably a thousand men who could be a credible back up quarterback in the NFL. Why should a team sign Colin Kapernick if it will cost them thousands of season ticket subscriptions? But more importantly, it distracts from the product. By all means wise erudite athletes should tell us their opinion in the marketplace of ideas, much like Bill Bradley and Jim Bunning did. But not during the game presentation. For decades Johnny Carson entertained us. We have no idea to this day what is political affiliation was. Today it's impossible to watch late night television, award shows, or sports without getting lectured to. When we want to enter the arena of political thoughts and ideas, we have opportunities. When we want to be entertained then leave us alone and entertain us. I suspect this president, who loves speaking with and entertaining celebrities at the White House would gladly sit down with these gentlemen and respectfully discuss these issues. There has to be more respect on both sides. Good article. Please write more.
Rita (California)
Does Trump read The NY Times Opinion Section? Why don’t you tell Trump to stop with his photo ops and rallies? He uses the “bully pulpit” to reach the most number of people. Writing opinion pieces for the “liberal” media may be an effective way to reach some. But NFL games are the athletes’ version of the “bully pulpit”. It is an effective way to convey their message to many. Your choice, of course, is not watch.
Matt (Watertown, MA)
They have access to the NY Times editorial page because they protested at work in the first place. The kneeling was meaningful; it led to this larger conversation. I disagree that the current President, or anyone else with authority on these matters, was eager to listen to NFL players before their protest created a public forum to address incarceration.
Chris (AZ, USA)
One major difference with their workplace is they are seen as idols by consumers. Their lives in the field are followed, analyzed, replayed, tracked and traded in fantasy form, used as symbols of what is good, strong, talented. Their uniforms are copied and worn to reflect social alliances and commonalities. If we are going to continue following sports and athletes with such passion and invest such massive amounts of money into the organizations then we should not try to compare the players with normal workers. The anthem is not part of the game play and has been perverted to be used as a marketing tool and defense to silence role models peacefully and quietly expressing themselves during the platform we are following. Editorial pages are not where most fans are going to connect with players. They are watching them and every action they take on the field.
Trans Cat Mom (Atlanta )
When I was in college, I used to get assigned to help our football players with tutoring, which I soon found out meant doing their work for them. I wonder if these players enjoyed the same perk in this case. Because not only is it hard to believe that these players wrote this, but whoever did took a massive pass on the actual assignment, and essentially avoided the hard work that would have gone into identifying cases that could have been evaluated for pardons. Think of the missed opportunity here! These athletes, with their money and connections, could have hired a team to reach out to organizations that actually advocate for drug offenders and the elderly who have ready-made lists of pardonable inmates. They could have then evaluated these cases, refined the list, and then submitted the list to Trump. Instead, they did the laziest thing imaginable, and just listed out generic cases of injustice that don't correspond to a single name. They had a chance to get pardons, and instead they grandstanded, and now they look like imbeciles. Maybe they should just stick to throwing and kicking a ball for a living. And maybe the rest of us should stop pretending that athletes - professionals or at the collegiate level - have anything of intellectual value to offer to the world. This essay is an embarrassment. The fact that people are lauding it is an embarrassment, and a perfect example of the soft bigotry of low expectations. They had one simple task. They failed.
RFC (Providence, RI)
"When I was in college, I used to get assigned to help our football players with tutoring, which I soon found out meant doing their work for them." A strange way to begin a comment that speaks of failure of these authors. Who took the easy way out? You were probably assigned as a work-study student to tutor football players. The fact that you did their work for them indicates that YOU took the easy way out. You failed at your teaching/coaching assignment...probably because of laziness. Talk about the "soft bigotry of low expectations!" Who, exactly, is grandstanding? Trump's suggestion that players provide names was a cynical taunt. Do not be surprised to learn later that these men (and others) will call Trump's bluff with a list of actual names. These four men are smart (e.g., Baldwin holds a B.S. from Stanford), erudite and, too, known for their generosity. This was a national teaching moment of which they took advantage.
Jordan (Nyack, NY)
Are you seriously suggesting that Benjamin Watson, who has written serious books/essays about race relations, isn't eloquent enough to write an op-ed? Do you think Baldwin, Boldin and Jenkins--three of the NFL's most active humanitarians--aren't using "their money and connections?" Are you aware of how many incarcerated persons, community groups, advocacy groups, police departments, district attorneys and legislators TPC has met with? Did the point of why they *weren't* making individual recommendations sail over your head like an errant pass? Do you actually know anything about any of the four players in the by-line besides that they play football? Do you not see any value in a brief mission statement made in the media? Soft bigotry?
Jim (Bellingham, WA)
The simple task you referred to is hardly simple. The generic cases of injustice don't correspond to a single name because they are not generic, but systemic, and refer to thousands of names. Pardoning a few well-deserving people will not change the system. It is easy for those of us privileged enough to have little first hand knowledge of prison sentencing and all that it entails to ignore how ingrained the system is, and how it is frequently directed at specific communities.
David A Ross (Beacon, NY)
Thank you for so eloquently stating why you are simply Americans who care about justice, regardless of your occupation as professional athletes.
Elizabeth (Roslyn, NY)
Your entreaty to President Trump is deserving of attention by the President and our government to start to address the injustice of our criminal justice system. All the points you raise are true and troubling because they enforce a systematic repression of civil rights and human decency. Your timing couldn't be worse unfortunately. Your efforts are fighting for attention with Baby Jails today. If nothing else, Trump's cruel policy of family separation of immigrants is further proof of racial animosity being actively endorsed through governmental policy. We must confront injustice whenever and wherever we see it. The Trump Administration has given us a long, long list. The challenge is to not let one injustice be forgotten or moved out of the way in favor of another. Please continue to challenge the injustices of our judicial system and make your voices heard. You are supported by many in America who reject Trump's divisive manipulation.
Mon Ray (Skepticrat)
According to Kapaernick himself, his kneeling actions were initially carried out to protest against police violence directed toward blacks. Now, according to this article, the kneeling has morphed into a protest on behalf of prisoners who are said to deserve pardons or clemency. This article is written by black football players about on-TV protests primarily by black football players. If the writers are calling for clemency for deserving prisoners of all races, that should be made clear. If the writers are calling for clemency only for black prisoners, that position sounds racist to me, and certainly requires justification. Do all the protesting NFL players themselves, individually, know what they are protesting for or about on any given day? Does anyone? Do players get updated talking points before they are interviewed on TV or by a newspaper reporter? Or is NFL television programming just a convenient venue for some people to protest whatever their cause du jour happens to be? I used to enjoy watching football; never again, or at least not while the NFL is being used as a political football, so to speak. If I want political agitation I'll watch the shouting heads on Sunday morning TV.
James (Long Island)
They keep calling dealing drugs "non violent". What is "non violent" about getting someone hooked on heroin? or crack? Most of these addicts die far before their time after living miserable lives where they are forced to victimize others to feed their addiction. As far as educational inequality. A good education requires a personal responsibility by parents and children. Something many NFL players lack
Al (PA)
Being jailed for drug offenses is not the same as being jailed for dealing drugs. Mere possession of drugs will land you in jail--3 times more frequently if you are black rather than white. And even when it comes to dealing drugs, there's a world of difference between somebody who buys and sells a little pot between friends and somebody who's distributing heroin, yet there are many of the former sharing jail cells with the latter. And given our current legal system, if you do not have the funds for strong legal representation, the likelihood of winding up behind bars for possession of a few ounces of pot is quite high. Nuance is incredibly important, especially when you are talking about people's lives.
Miranda Shapiro (Atlanta, Georgia)
These are cogent and reasonable arguments. I hope someone will listen. Our country cannot continue down this path. We must address systemic racism, legislatively. It is the only way to healing this country. Please vote!
pirranha299 (Philadelphia)
It is offensive and inaccurate to breakdown all drug offenses as violent vs nonviolent. The piece deliberately and blatantly does not distinguish between users of drugs and sellers of drugs lumping them both into the non violent category. Users are not the ones with long sentences. Dealers are!! the Peddlers of the poison deserve long sentences. Dealer's prey on the addicted and profit from the misery and suffering of others. These parasites do not deserve to be let out early. take away the poison Peddlers. Punish them for profiting. That's true justice!
Bernie Oakley (Burlington, NC)
Does that include the pharmaceutical executives who lied about the addictive qualities of opioids, while over-selling them to pharmacies with, apparently, very little concern about the scourge they were unleashing on the country? I'll agree with your outrage once we acknowledge that street drugs aren't America's only drug problem. And, none of them - from crack to oxycodone/acetaminophen - should be treated as a criminal problem to be solved with prison. Drugs are a heath issue. Always were. Always will be. We've been locking up our children & minorities who just needed our help. We should take the money we've been paying private prison contractors & actually try to do something about the mental health issues in our country that the Republicans only want to discuss after a mass shooting to avoid talking about guns.
Rod (TX)
It is no less offensive and inaccurate to lump all drugs together without a distinction among those that have benign effects and those that have fatal effects.
El Herno (NYC)
Getting in trouble for selling weed and getting a life sentence under a moronic three-strikes-law sentencing guideline does not make a person a parasite, particularly if you view it through the lens of people selling marijuana are mostly young men who have been disenfranchised from economic achievement mostly due to the color of their skin. Your view of this is incredibly narrow. These laws mostly affected young men of color, not drug lords, and are awful in that they never allowed judges to sentence with any kind of context because the law mandated minimum sentences.
PSJ (Portland)
About time. I wanted to shout "Yes" when I finished reading this article. We continue to incarcerate non-violent drug crimes, and we continue to incarcerate mentally ill individuals. And, strangely enough, the majority in both instances are people of color . Change is long past due. I'd like to see every police chief, mayor, and governor, agree to tackle the issue of inherent racism, of locking people up for non-violent crimes, of how each of treats mental ill fellow citizens. About time those of us reading the paper and drinking coffee stood up and added our names to list of change advocates.
Ronny (Dublin, CA)
Pardons are meant to correct for injustices, not prevent them. If we want to prevent this kind of injustice we need to rethink how we use our criminal justice system. We should not be criminalizing drug use, mental health issues or poverty. We need to deal with these social problems with social interventions rather than arrest and punishment. Using our criminal justice and law enforcement resources to deal with these problems is immoral, ineffective and extremely costly.
rbow (michigan)
And when one can show that treating these social problems can be cheaper than keeping a person in jail... is that something a red blooded republican could get behind?
Alexander Harrison (Wilton Manors, Fla.)
These requests for reform of our Federal prison system are reasonable and should be considered and acted upon as soon as possible. Knew members of Algerian OAS after the war was over and had returned to metropolitan France, whereupon some engineered the "crime des gouttieres," involving digging a tunnel underneath the Banque de France branch in Nice, then gaining access to the coffres forts and walking away with millions in "francs nouveaux!" Since it was a crime committed "sans haine et sans violence,"perpetrators who included men whom I interviewed, Jo Rizza,Gaby Anglade, Albert Spaggiari among others, got off with extremely light sentences. Personally spent several months as an "estivant" in Prison de Fresnes in 1963 for an infraction, so I know what being behind bars is like, and proposals of NFL players are humane and, once again, President could harvest much good will for himself by acting upon them.It is the right thing to do!
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
@Alexander Harrison: This post is superb. Your experiences are very informative. Your proposal is absolutely right and humane.
David Honig (Indianapolis)
Many people here are making a distinction between dealing and possessing. That would be meaningful if it were real, but alas, it is not. Many people who are imprisoned for dealing, or even trafficking, were charged based upon amount, rather actual sales. They are charged for having "a dealing amount," not actually dealing. And many who were actually convicted of selling were kids selling nickels and dimes on street corners who were sentenced, not really for the sales, but for the sin of not rolling over fast enough on the person in the chain above them. And of course, there's the true bottom line - do we really think we can equate selling a kid crack in an impoverished neighborhood with a murderer, an armed robber, or a rapist?
Eric Key (Jenkintown PA)
I ask a serious question: What constitutes a non-violent drug crime? Other than possession for personal use what is there? And, unless you grow your own pot, for example, by participating in a criminal enterprise as a consumer, aren't you an accessory to violent offences at some level?
Mike (San Francisco)
Perhaps in some indirect way there is a connection, but you are in totally different bucket vis a vis the risk of releasing you and recidivism if you personally engaged in a violent act as opposed to not. That is the public safety cost-benefit rationale behind the distinction.
Jim (Bellingham, WA)
Do you eat avocados? All avocados are controlled by violent Mexican cartels, which means that you are participating in a criminal enterprise as a consumer...
R.A.K. (Long Island)
Not at all. Almost all of the problems associated with drug use actually stem from drug prohibition. Im not saying drugs should be sold in convenience stores, but its our government's failed drug policies that make criminals rich, sow instability across the globe and corrupt law enforcement. Drug consumers are unwilling pawns in the Federal government's Draconian approach to the problem.
MyView (Boston)
So pleased and proud to read this Op Ed. I appreciate the courage required to take a stand and the unique perspective of these young men. They are "targets" of our criminal justice system, yet are college educated and successful. They could easily be quiet and wall themselves off from the challenges in the Black community...yet they choose to advocate for justice, despite the risk of retaliation. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Frank (South Orange)
To affect change, people need to vote. I would love to see NFL players make a commitment to each other, and to us, to make sure that 100% of the eligible players register to vote, then vote either in person or by absentee ballot in every election. They should use their fame and professional soapbox to get others registered to vote. Help those in need to get to the polls. Be there for them to make sure their right to vote is protected. We spend more time voting for all star players that we do voting for representatives who enact legislation. NFL players have a real opportunity to affect change. Kneeling makes a statement. Voting can make a change. Vote!!!
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
Frank, it's "effect". More seriously, I hope the NFL players and you will do more than urge each other to vote. For instance, one could go around one's neighborhood and speak to the neighbors. (If it suits your personality.)
common sense advocate (CT)
Thomas, remember spell check autocorrect can get the best of many of us. Tread lighter on people who ARE on the side of decency, please. There's enough harassment going on in our country without banging on people with similar goals to help. That's how we ended up with Trump to begin with - inner-party alienation.
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
common sense advocate: As for the minor part of my remark, people are responsible (in a mild way) for their use of autocorrect; but much more importantly, you're right that I should not have implied Frank wasn't doing anything himself. Frank: Please accept my apology. I am so infuriated by Trump's and his supporters' viciousness that I forget myself sometimes.
Jay Lincoln (NYC)
There are way too many people being jailed for drug offenses. It's ridiculous. The best way to reduce this is for people to get smart and stop using drugs, selling drugs, or committing other drug-related crimes. It's not that tough. Pretty easy actually. I can tell you from personal experience.
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
It's easy for you. Jay, try seeing it from a different perspective than that of a comfortable citizen.
Andrew Lundberg (Cincinnati, Ohio)
And if people were being given life sentences for speeding the answer would be for people to never speed, right? Not change the law?
Carolyn C (San Diego)
There but for the grace of you, Sir. How about having a heart for those who are not as strong or are otherwise conquered by their circumstances?
Mon Ray (Skepticrat)
According to Kapaernick, his kneeling actions were initially carried out to protest against police violence directed toward blacks. Now, according to this article, the kneeling has somehow morphed into a protest on behalf of prisoners who are said to deserve pardons or clemency. This article is written by black football players about on-TV protests primarily by black football players. If the writers are calling for clemency for deserving prisoners of all races, that should be made clear. If the writers are calling for clemency only for black prisoners, that sounds racist to me, and certainly requires justification (if that is even possible). Do all the protesting NFL players know what they are protesting for or about on any given day? Does anyone? Do players get updated talking points before they are interviewed on TV or by a newspaper reporter? Who prepares the talking points? Or are NFL TV broadcasts just a good venue for some to protest whatever their cause du jour may be? Since the protests are broadening from police violence to pardons, I wonder if reparations are next to be brought up, either by the NFL protesters or even the NYT. (I am a Democrat, and some of my far-far-left friends are already pushing for a reparations plank in the 2020 Democratic platform.) I once enjoyed watching pro football, but never again while the NFL is being used as a political football, so to speak. If I want political agitation I'll watch the shouting heads on Sunday morning TV.
Hipolito Hernanz (Portland, OR)
The premise of this article is made clear in the first paragraph: "President Trump recently made an offer to National Football League players like us who are committed to protesting injustice. Instead of protesting, he suggested, we should give him names of people we believe were “unfairly treated by the justice system.” If he agrees they were treated unfairly, he said, he will pardon them." It seems to me you missed the point.
jaco (Nevada)
@ Hipolito, Where are the names of folk to be pardoned?
Godfrey (Nairobi, Kenya)
Not once in this article, not a single time, did these players call for the pardoning of only black prisoners. President Trump, too, did not ask them for names of black people. I think it is you, Mon Ray, who is choosing to read something that no one brought up. Of all the numbers listed in this article, I am 100% certain that it also includes whites, Latinos, mixed race individuals, men and women. And yes, probably some black folk too. Please don't take this argument to the gutter by introducing race where there was none.
See also