In an interview with Fox News last week, President Donald Trump offered to help NFL players who have protested during the national anthem by listening to their suggestions of people whom he should pardon.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Thursday, several prominent players responded.
"A handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that NFL players have been protesting," four members of the Players Coalition, including Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, wrote in the op-ed.
"If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn't been listening to us."
The op-ed, which was also co-authored by New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin, commended Trump for using his pardon power in cases such as that of Alice Johnson, the 63-year-old who was pardoned earlier this month. Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for cocaine trafficking, was granted clemency after Kim Kardashian West met with Trump to plead her case.
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The four members of the Players Coalition wrote in The New York Times that Trump should consider a blanket pardon for those in similar circumstances, citing the prevalence of life sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and the fact that the elderly make up more than a quarter of the United States' prison population.
"President Trump could order the release of any drug offender over the age of 60 whose conviction is not recent," the players wrote in the op-ed. "That would be the morally right thing to do."
At the core of their argument, Baldwin, Boldin, Jenkins and Watson urged the president to consider the systemic issues for which players have kneeled during the national anthem before games, namely police brutality and racial inequality in the criminal justice system. These issues, they wrote, cannot be fixed with pardons alone.
"President Trump, please note: Our being professional athletes has nothing to do with our commitment to fighting injustice," the group wrote in The New York Times. "We are citizens who embrace the values of empathy, integrity and justice, and we will fight for what we believe is right."