Last week Donald Trump pardoned 18 different people from politics, business and sports. Among others, banker Micheal R. Milken, the so-called junk bond king of the 1980s, New York police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik and Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers were among the pardoned.
The American entrepreneur Edward “Eddie” DeBartolo Jr. is of particular interest because he was convicted of gambling fraud. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was the owner of the successful National Football League team San Francisco 49ers.
Gambling fraud and bribery in the late 1990s
When Edward “Eddie” DeBartolo Jr. owned the San Francisco 49ers, he is said to have paid bribes to the governor of Louisiana. Edwin Edwards was then governor and allegedly accepted a € 400,000 bribe. In return, the businessman got a license for a riverboat casino.
Riverboat casinos are casinos that are operated on a river boat. River casinos are legal in many states, as only gambling on land is prohibited. On the Mississippi there are therefore many former paddle steamers with a range of games of chance. You can find them in the states of Louisiana, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri, for example. Gambling steamers have been around since the beginning of the 20th century. In some states, gambling on them is only allowed when the steamers are moving on the water.
In the 1990s, the businessman was an investor in Hollywood Casino Corp. It was a Dallas company that applied for a gambling license in Louisiana. In March 1997, “Eddie” is said to have met Edwin Edwards for lunch in California. He is said to have handed him $ 400,000. The day after the meeting, the Louisiana gaming board granted the guaranteed gaming license. A month after the meeting, the governor’s house was examined. The bribe was found.
Penalties for corruption
As a result of the gambling scandal, DeBartolo Jr. was sentenced to a $ 1 million payment and two years suspended probation. The governor who accepted the money was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
DeBartolo Jr. had been sentenced to two years suspended probation and a $ 1 million fine. From the NFL he had the requirement to withdraw from the game for a year. He also had to pay the league a fine of $ 250,000. Despite the controversy surrounding DeBartolo Jr.’s gambling scandal, he was inducted into the National Football League’s Hall of Fame in 2016.
DeBartolo had won five Super Bowl titles and 13 division titles with the San Francisco 49ers. In total, he had owned the team for 23 years, and in 1998 pleaded guilty to bribery. As a result, his sister Denise York took over the football team. The White House press release states:
He remained a generous philanthropist and a passionate supporter of numerous charitable causes, including charter schools such as the Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School and initiatives against gang violence. His extraordinary compassion and warmth determine his character to this day. Mr. DeBartolo treated players and coaches as part of his family.
Supposedly, many people have spoken out in favor of pardoning the businessman and real estate agent. These included the following people from the NFL scene: Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, Derrick Brooks, Fred Dean, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell.
Political calculation behind the pardon
There will be presidential elections in the United States in November 2020. The Republicans will continue to rely on Trump as the driving force for the election. Despite the controversy and scandals surrounding the president, he is still popular with voters.
Local media assume that the pardons are politically motivated. The president wants to get many votes from American voters about the sport. Some campaign advisers still see mobilized voters among sports fans who would otherwise be more likely to stay away from politics.
For this reason, Trump attended the Daytona 500 race last Sunday. He was the second president in US history to attend a NASCAR Cup.
The relationship with DeBartolo Jr. is also said to be steeped in history. The two businessmen knew each other before Trump took office. The ex-owner of the San Francisco 49ers is also known for having supported various presidential candidates from across the US political spectrum over time.
Reasons for the gambling scandal
DeBartolo had once commented on the case in the course of a biographical documentation and could not explain there exactly what had led him to the bribe:
Why are you doing this? Actually it was just stupidity and I should have just stopped. I was to blame because I was old enough to know better and too stupid to know what to do about it.
Jerry Rice is a former San Francisco 49ers player and welcomed the step of pardon. He was involved in three Super Bowl titles of the golden era and commented on the pardon as follows:
It is the main reason why we won so many titles. Today is a great day for him. I am happy to be here and part of it. It is something that I will never forget. This man, he did so much in the community and he did so much for NFL football.
At least by the supporters of the former football team owner, the move is perceived as a great gesture. It remains to be seen how voters will judge this action in November 2020 and whether it can really influence Trump’s re-election.