President Donald Trump says he is considering a posthumous pardon for boxer Jack Johnson following a request from actor Sylvester Stallone. Johnson, an African-American heavyweight champion, was convicted in 1913 of transporting a white woman across state lines in violation of the Mann Act. He died in 1946. Although not unprecedented, if Trump does go ahead it would mark a rare use of the president’s pardon power for someone who has died.
“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 tweeted Saturday. “Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”
The criminal charges against Johnson came from a relationship he started with his future wife Lucille Cameron. After he was convicted, Johnson spent seven years as a fugitive around the world before turning himself in and serving a year in federal prison.
Johnson’s great-great niece has been pushing presidents since George W. Bush to pardon the boxing legend. Although she was optimistic that Barack Obama would pardon Johnson, at the time the Justice Department insisted that the limited time available for clemency processes should go to the living. Her campaign has garnered support from both sides of the aisle, including from Sen. John McCain. “Jack Johnson was a boxing legend and pioneer whose career and reputation were ruined by a racially charged conviction more than a century ago,” McCain said in a statement earlier this year. “Johnson’s imprisonment forced him into the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, and continues to stand as a stain on our national honor.”