Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, former NFL wideout Anquan Boldin, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson responded to President Donald Trump's call for pardon recommendations Thursday.
In a piece for the New York Times, the four Players Coalition members discussed how more sweeping changes within the justice system are needed to truly make a difference:
"To be sure, the president's clemency power can be a valuable tool for redressing injustice. Just look at Alice Johnson, age 63, who was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug conviction until her sentence was commuted by President Trump. He should be commended for using his clemency power in that case.
"But a handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that NFL players have been protesting. These are problems that our government has created, many of which occur at the local level. If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn't been listening to us."
On June 8, Trump said he welcomed all NFL players to send him recommendations for pardons and added that his committee would consider each case.
Last week, Trump said that he had not received any recommendations from NFL players:
"No, I haven't heard [from them]. ... They're all saying, 'Oh, it has nothing to do with the flag, it's the way we've been treated.' In the meantime, they're making $15 million a year. Maybe they've called the staff but I've not personally heard from one ... because I don't know if it's a real issue. I don't think it's a real issue."
Baldwin, Boldin, Jenkins and Watson further explained their stance by calling for the president to take a look at those who are serving prison time for nonviolent drug offenses.
Eagles defensive end Chris Long and Boldin also directed videos toward Trump:
Anquan Boldin @AnquanBoldin
Mr.President please use your pardon &platform to change lives of thousands by issuing categorical pardons for those who received death-in-prison punishments & have already served lengthy sentences for non-violent drug crimes @realDonaldTrump #justice READ: https://t.co/lS26foLeQn https://t.co/Ui7dcGrH4C
Long specifically mentioned that those imprisoned for marijuana-related offenses should be released since it is now legal in many states.
The Players Coalition members stressed the importance of releasing elderly prisoners who are serving time for nonviolent offenses as well, noting that they aren't a danger to society.
Baldwin, Boldin, Jenkins and Watson closed their article with a strong message toward Trump and an explanation of why NFL players protest:
"President Trump, please note: Our being professional athletes has nothing to do with our commitment to fighting injustice. We are citizens who embrace the values of empathy, integrity and justice, and we will fight for what we believe is right. We weren't elected to do this. We do it because we love this country, our communities and the people in them. This is our America, our right.
"We intend to continue to challenge and encourage all Americans to remember why we are here in this world. We are here to treat one another with the kindness and respect every human being deserves. And we hope our elected officials will use their power to do the same."
Protests during the national anthem have existed in the NFL since the 2016 preseason, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the practice to raise awareness against social injustice, racial inequality and police brutality.
Other players have joined in since then, but Trump has taken great issue with the demonstrations.
The NFL took a step toward eliminating protests this offseason when it passed a policy that will fine teams if their players show "disrespect" for the anthem or the flag.