Donald Trump shared a tweet on Saturday declaring that he’s considering a pardon for boxer Jack Johnson after Sylvester Stallone reached out to him to make the request. “His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial,” Trump wrote. “Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!” Stallone joins the likes of Arizona Senator John McCain and former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid, who have previously sought a pardon for Johnson.
Johnson became the first African-American world heavyweight champion in 1908 after defeating Tommy Burns. Four years later, he was arrested for violating the Mann Act, which disallowed someone from transporting a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes.” After falling short in their first attempt at building a case against Johnson, assistant U.S. District Attorney Harry A. Parkin asked the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation to “secure evidence [of] illegal transportation by Johnson of any other women for an immoral purpose.”
An anonymous tip led them to a woman once linked to Johnson named Belle Schreiber, who had ties to prostitution. In 1913, an all-white jury found him guilty of seven Mann Act indictments following just two hours of deliberations. Johnson was sentenced to a year and one day in prison. Twenty days after the sentence was handed down, he fled to Europe.
Johnson returned to the U.S. in 1920 to serve his sentence and was released nearly one year later. Johnson died in 1946 at the age of 68. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954.