President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he is considering a posthumous pardon of Jack Johnson, the first black boxing heavyweight champion.
"Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson," the president tweeted Saturday. "His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!"
Trump said he received a phone call from “Rocky” actor Sylvester Stallone, who told him about Johnson’s life story. The White House did not say when the call occurred, but Trump and Stallone have been acquaintances for years.
In 1913, Johnson, who was black, was convicted by an all-white jury with violating the Mann Act after transporting a white woman he was dating across state lines for “immoral purposes.” Johnson served one year in prison.
Johnson, a boxing legend and major figure in 20th century sports, bucked racial barriers and racism until his death in 1946.
Johnson’s great-great niece, Linda Haywood, has led the charge for Johnson to receive a rare posthumous pardon, according to the Associated Press.
In recent years, Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Harry Reid (R-Kentucky) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have advocated for Johnson’s name to be cleared. This year, McCain, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) reintroduced legislation urging a posthumous pardon.
“Jack Johnson is a boxing legend and pioneer whose reputation was wrongly tarnished by a racially motivated conviction more than a century ago,” said McCain in a statement. “Despite this resolution passing both chambers of Congress several times in recent years, no pardon has been issued to date. I hope President Trump will seize the opportunity before him to right this historical wrong and restore a great athlete’s legacy."