President Trump recently did something that many on the right and the left didn’t expect. He invited NFL players who kneel during the national anthem an opportunity to participate in his administration’s efforts to reform the U.S. prison system.

Alice Johnson

Since taking office, the president has issued clemency to multiple individuals who he believes were treated unfairly by our justice system. The most recent was Alice Marie Johnson, who was given a life sentence in the ‘90s for nonviolent drug offenses. Trump commuted her sentence after meeting with television star Kim Kardashian who has been advocating for Johnson’s freedom. He is considering taking his efforts further, and he has given NFL players a chance to participate.

Trump Makes An Offer

Shortly before leaving for the G7 summit in Canada, President Trump announced that he is requesting NFL players to provide their recommendations for inmates who might be deserving of clemency. He is already considering clemency for thousands of people who might be serving unfair sentences, and he has invited the athletes to give him their insights on how he should use his authority to grant clemency.

“I am going to ask all of those people to recommend to me, because that’s what they’re protesting – people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system,” he told reporters. “And I understand that. They’ve seen a lot of abuse, and they’ve seen a lot of unfairness.”

While NFL athletes have not yet responded to Trump’s offer, several left-leaning individuals have criticized the president for the invitation.

The Left Attacks

The left has responded to Trump’s offer by questioning his motives. Harry Edwards, a sociologist at University of California at Berkeley, told Reuters that the president is not sincere. “His suggestion that he might bring NFL players into the pardon process must be viewed as nothing less than a cynical, self-serving ploy to create a photo op with NFL players, many of whom have made it clear that they would not be caught standing downwind from him, much less next to him,” he said.

Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, echoed Edwards’ claims. “This is just another attempt to divert attention and, of course, it places Donald Trump as the master of everything,” he said. “Just appeal to me personally, and I’ll let your friends out, or maybe I will pardon them.”

The Right Move?

It’s no secret that there is no love lost between President Trump and the protesting football players. Both parties have exchanged barbs over the past year and a half, and their conflict became one of the most significant battlefields in the culture war. After the NFL decided to impose rules requiring football players to either stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room, the fight was over. Nevertheless, the president has made the first overture towards finding common ground.

Trump’s offer to football players is in line with his overall plan to create a fairer justice system. He recently held a prison reform panel. Van Jones, a far-left journalist and a strong critic of the Trump administration attended the meeting, showing that he was willing to find common ground with the president. While many on the left are more concerned with lambasting Trump’s potential motives, others might be more open to working with him.

While the NFL has not yet responded, the president has demonstrated his willingness to work with those who oppose him. If players take Trump up on his offer, they will see that their voices are being heard, despite their misgivings about the president. If they refuse, they will have shown that they might not be as serious about their stated mission as they would have us believe.

The president’s invitation is more than a shrewd political move – it could become an example of how two parties who are opposed to one another can come together to achieve something impactful. This kind of co-operation is much needed, given the tense nature of our political discourse.

The athletes would be wise to take the president up on his offer despite their problems with him; they finally have an opportunity to make a difference for their cause. The offer is on the table, and the ball is in their court.


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Jeff Charles

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at

A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff's insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.



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Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent