WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday granting a full pardon to Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty to a felony charge for his involvement in a gambling fraud case in Louisiana in the late 1990s, according to White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.
DeBartolo was suspended from the NFL in 1997 and fined $1 million over an extortion case involving then-Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards. As the star witness, DeBartolo testified that he paid Edwards $400,000 in exchange for his help in securing a riverboat casino license. Edwards was convicted of on racketeering, conspiracy and extortion charges in 2000.
DeBartolo eventually ceded control of the 49ers to his sister, but was still inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 for presiding over a team that earned five Super Bowl trophies during the 1980s and ‘90s.
Jerry Rice, a legendary wide receiver who played under DeBartolo, credited him with his success and described him as the “12th man that was on that football field.”
“It was all about family. That’s really what they stood for. And that’s the reason why I think we won so many championships,” Rice said. “I take my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did.”
Among those who appeared at the announcement Tuesday were former NFL players Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley.
DeBartolo, who has made political contributions to both Democrats and Republicans, was a featured guest at a Trump inauguration party in early 2017. That party also featured former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis, former Indiana men’s basketball coach Bobby Knight and former reality show star Omarosa Manigault Newman, according to an invitation reviewed by USA TODAY at the time. Newman worked briefly in the White House and Knight appeared at campaign events with Trump in 2016.