President Donald Trump is considering a pardon for the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, after speaking with one of his supporters Sylvester Stallone.
“Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”
Johnson defeated James Jeffries, a white boxer, in a major boxing match in 1910. The fight’s outcome led to race riots.
In the aftermath of the fight, authorities targeted Johnson for prosecution. He was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1913 by an all-white jury. The Mann Act prohibits transporting women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.
The authorities first tried to target Lucille Cameron who later became Johnson’s wife. Cameron did not cooperate. The authorities then found another white witness, Belle Schreiber, who testified against Johnson. After his conviction, Johnson fled the country. Years later, he agreed to come back to serve a 10-month sentence.
The jury convicted Johnson in less than two hours. The conviction ruined Johnson’s career.
In 2016, a bipartisan group of lawmakers petitioned then-President Barack Obama to pardon Johnson. The group sent a letter to the White House asking for a posthumous pardon to honor the 70th anniversary of Johnson’s death.
“While it is unfortunate that this unjust conviction was not corrected during the boxer’s lifetime, a posthumous pardon today represents the opportunity to reaffirm Jack Johnson’s substantial contributions to our society and right this historical wrong,” the letter said, according to CNN.