These NFL Players Want Trump To Know That A Few Pardons Won't Solve What They're Protesting

"He hasn’t been listening to us."

After President Donald Trump once again criticized NFL players who choose to protest during the national anthem, four members of the Players Coalition (an NFL advocacy group made up of current and former players) responded with an important op-ed. According to USA Today, Trump told Fox News earlier this month that the players should provide names of people they think he should pardon.

"But a handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that NFL players have been protesting," wrote Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins, and Benjamin Watson for the New York Times.


The purpose of the national anthem protests is to object to police brutality and racial inequality, particularly in the criminal justice system. "These are problems that our government has created, many of which occur at the local level," the four players wrote. "If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn't been listening to us."

They commended Trump's recent decision to commute the sentence of 63-year-old Alice Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. However, they hope he continues to use his clemency power to address the larger, institutional issues that have put so many others in a similar position. As Johnson herself said, "I hope that my life encourages him to do this for others too."

The players suggested Trump issue a blanket pardon for others in Johnson's situation, explaining that 79,000 people in federal prisons are there for drug offenses, and 13.5 percent of them are serving sentences of 20 years or more. They also encouraged Trump to order prisons to release drug offenders over 60 who don't have a recent conviction.

"Imagine how many more Alice Johnsons the president could pardon if he treated the issue like the systemic problem it is, rather than asking professional football players for a few cases," they wrote, going on to suggest other policy choices such as eliminating life without parole for nonviolent offenses. "His ability to change the lives of people for the better is immense. We hope he uses it, not just for the few, but for the many."

Malcolm Jenkins, who co-founded the Players Coalition with Anquan Boldin, also posted a video of himself on Twitter elaborating on some of the problems addressed in the piece. "There needs to be a focus on helping people become better, contributing citizens when they do return to society," he said of the federal prison system. 

It's not the first time Jenkins has explained these issues. Earlier this month, he responded to reporters' questions about Trump's choice to cancel the Philadelphia Eagles' White House visit by holding up cue cards reading statistics about racial injustice. "You aren't listening," the first card read.

As the players reminded Trump in their piece, "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."

Cover image: dean bertoncelj /


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.