Lawmakers urge Obama to pardon boxing heavyweight champion


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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mo Cowan (D-Mass.), and Rep. Peter King (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation on Tuesday that urges the president to pardon Johnson, who was arrested under the Mann Act in 1913 which bars taking women over state lines for "immoral purposes." Johnson was jailed because of his romantic relations with a white woman.

"Jack Johnson was a legendary competitor who defined an era of American boxing and raised the bar for all American athletics," Reid said in a statement. "Johnson’s memory was unjustly tarnished by a racially-motivated criminal conviction, and it is now time to recast his legacy. I am pleased to work with my colleagues in both the Senate and House to formally restore Johnson’s name to the full stature and dignity he deserves."

McCain noted that both he House and Senate have called for a pardon of the first black American heavyweight champion. Both chambers passed a resolution pardoning Johnson in 2011.

"In past years, both chambers of Congress unanimously passed this resolution, but unfortunately, it still awaits executive action and no pardon has been issued," McCain said. "We can never completely right the wrong perpetrated against Jack Johnson during his lifetime, but this pardon is a small, meaningful step toward acknowledging his mistreatment before the law and celebrating his legacy of athletic greatness and historical significance."

Johnson won the 1908 world heavyweight title in 1908.

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