Over 1,400 pro athletes, coaches call on Congress to back bill ending qualified immunity

A band of more than 1,400 current and former professional athletes and coaches from the NFL, NBA and MLB is calling on Congress to support legislation eliminating qualified immunity, the legal protection that officers have for their actions when they are on official duty. 

In an open letter spearheaded by the Players Coalition, an organization launched by NFL players to address social and racial inequities, the group called on lawmakers in Washington to take action on the "unchecked authority of the police." 

The letter, dated Wednesday, asserted that the police killing of George Floyd and some of the violent confrontations between officers and protestors in the days that followed intensified the urgency for more police accountability. 

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The letter was signed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, among others.

Former NFL player Anquan Boldin and Saints defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, the two who launched the Players Coalition in 2017, were also among its signatories. 

"When police officers kill an unarmed man, when they beat a woman, or when they shoot a child, the people of this country must have a way to hold them accountable in a court of law," the letter said. "And officers must know that if they act in such a manner, there will be repercussions. A legal system that does not provide such a recourse is an illegitimate one."

The Players Coalition's request asked that lawmakers support legislation introduced by Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance Vietnam shadow hangs over Biden decision on Afghanistan Kamala Harris and our shameless politics MORE (L-Mich.) and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyHolding back on defensive systems for Israel could have dangerous consequences Warren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE (D-Mass.) that would strip qualified immunity for law enforcement officials. The bill would allow Americans to seek relief when a police officer or other official violates their legal and constitutional rights.

Democrats in both chambers of Congress also included a measure to limit the “qualified immunity” doctrine in a sweeping legislative package designed to reform policing introduced earlier this week. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has repeatedly said that the immunity proposal is a “non-starter" for the Trump administration. 

The letter from the Players Coalition comes as many professional athletes speak out about police brutality and their right to peacefully protest.

A group of the NFL's most prominent African American stars released a video montage last week demanding the NFL condemn racism and admit that they were wrong in how they initially handled player protests. 

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first professional athlete in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. He has not been signed by an NFL team since the completion of that season. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to the players' demands last Friday by admitting the league deserved blame and supporting players' right to protest. The statement prompted President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE, who has repeatedly decried athlete demonstrations, to question whether the NFL would support the protests if they took place in the fall.