WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR/WFLA) – President Donald Trump granted executive clemency to former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo on Tuesday.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister was there to celebrate alongside some of the all-time NFL greats. San Francisco 49ers legends Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott were among the retired NFL stars who were there to witness the moment.
“He’s just been an incredible friend, an incredible owner and we’ll always be indebted to him,” Lott said.
“I tip my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did,” Rice added.
The president tweeted a photo of DeBartolo, his supporters and his family – including Sheriff Chronister – at the White House. Sheriff Chronister is married to one of DeBartolo’s daughters, who was also at the White House for the occasion.
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.
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 the pardons have gone to those who are wealthy or well-connected, Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks had an answer.
“That’s not about a status in society. That’s a status about someone that has a winning heart and a desire to give something back to someone else,” Brooks said.
Brooks didn’t play for DeBartolo but the two teamed up in 2005 to create Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa.
Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown says that’s how he wants the public to remember DeBartolo – as a philanthropist, not a criminal.
“Eddie DeBartolo is a great man. I’m here to support him and not have any fear,” he said.
The NFL has already forgiven DeBartolo. He was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016.