President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE on Tuesday granted a pardon to former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., the White House announced.
DeBartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 to a felony charge of failing to report that former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards allegedly extorted $400,000 from him to win a casino license. DeBartolo paid $1 million in penalties and served two years of probation, but avoided prison time.
White House officials called an impromptu press gathering outside the West Wing to announce the pardon. Several retired NFL players, including Hall of Famers Jerry Rice, Charles Haley, Ronnie Lott and Jim Brown, told reporters they met with Trump about DeBartolo's case.
DeBartolo owned the 49ers from 1977 to 2000 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
Those in attendance at the brief media availability cheered DeBartolo for his philanthropic work, saying he was deserving of the pardon.
"Eddie was like that 12th man that was on that football field. You know that this guy, you know, he wanted us to win. And I think he's the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls,” Rice told reporters. “Today is a great day for him. I'm glad to be here and be a part of that. And, you know, it's just something I'll never forget. You know, this man, he has done so much in the community, he has done so much in NFL football."
Asked to elaborate on what Trump told him during their meeting, Rice said that it was “really just about” DeBartolo.
“I take my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did,” Rice said.
The impromptu press availability Tuesday morning lasted less than 10 minutes and came less than two hours before Trump was scheduled to depart the White House for a mix of official and campaign business on the West Coast over the next several days.
Later Tuesday, the White House announced that Trump would issue 11 pardons and commutations in total, including granting clemency to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Trump on Tuesday evening also tweeted out photos of himself, DeBartolo and his family, and the other attendees at the meeting earlier Tuesday.
"Congratulations to Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and your wonderful family of friends!" the president wrote.
Congratulations to Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and your wonderful family of friends! pic.twitter.com/IJu93xjiQS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020
Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of nearly two dozen people since taking office, including several after the urging of celebrities.
The president commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving out a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, after Kim Kardashian WestKimberly (Kim) Noel Kardashian WestInvestors sue Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather over cryptocurrency promotion Victim's brother rips Colorado governor for reducing trucker's 110-year sentence 2021's top political celebrity moments MORE brought the case to the president's attention. Trump also posthumously pardoned the late boxing champion Jack Johnson while surrounded by Sylvester Stallone and Lennox Lewis, among others. And he has granted pardons to Joe Arpaio and Matthew Golsteyn after their causes were featured prominently in conservative media.
--Updated at 7:26 p.m.