Earlier this month President Donald Trump, who has long been insistent that NFL players stand for the national anthem, said that he wants to meet with players who have knelt during the anthem to protest social injustice because they've "seen a lot of abuse, they've seen a lot of unfairness" in their lives. He wants to hear from these players so they can recommend to him people deserving of pardons.
"To be sure, the president's clemency power can be a valuable tool for redressing injustice," the letter stated. "Just look at Alice Johnson, age 63, who was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug conviction until her sentence was commuted by President Trump. He should be commended for using his clemency power in that case.
"But a handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that NFL players have been protesting. These are problems that our government has created, many of which occur at the local level. If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn't been listening to us."
The letter offered ways Trump could help beyond "a handful of pardons."
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. ...
There is also a systemic problem in federal prison involving the elderly, who by next year will make up 28 percent of the federal prison population. Releasing these prisoners would pose little to no risk to society. ...
Apart from using the pardon power, there are policies the president and the attorney general could implement to help. For instance, they could eliminate life without parole for nonviolent offenses.
The letter goes on to say that these changes "would positively affect the lives of thousands of people and have a lasting beneficial effect on many more people in the future," and the authors note that "being professional athletes has nothing to do with our commitment to fighting injustice."
"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."