WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR)— President Trump granted executive clemency to former San Francisco 49ers owner, Eddie DeBartolo, Tuesday.
In 1998, DeBartolo pleaded guilty in a corruption and gambling fraud scandal involving former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.
Billionaire DeBartolo never went to prison, but he paid a million-dollar fine, and the NFL forced him to give up control of the 49ers.
Some of the all-time NFL greats converged on the White House to witness the signing.
“It’s all about just being here for Eddie today,” said Jerry Rice. “I tip my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did.”
“He’s just been an incredible friend, an incredible owner, and we’ll always be indebted to him,” said teammate Ronnie Lott.
The president can decide carte blanche to legally forgive anyone for a federal crime. According to the justice department, President Trump has pardoned more than a dozen people.
When asked if it concerned any of the players that so many of these pardons have gone to those who are wealthy or well-connected, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks had an answer.
“That’s not about a status in society,” Brook said. “That’s a status about someone that has a winning heart and a desire to give something back to someone else.”
Brooks didn’t play for DeBartolo but said they have been partners in youth charity work for years.
That’s how Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown wants the public to remember DeBartolo: a philanthropist instead of a criminal.
“Eddie DeBartolo is a great man,” Brown said. “I’m here to support him and not have any fear.”
The NFL has already forgiven DeBartolo. He was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016.
DeBartolo was one of several people President Trump granted clemency to Tuesday. He also commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who was convicted of federal corruption charges.