WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal.
DeBartolo Jr., who built the San Francisco 49ers' 1980s-'90s dynasty, was involved in one of the biggest owners' scandals in the sport's history. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license.
The White House announced the surprise decision on Tuesday, along with NFL greats Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley.
DeBartolo Jr., whose San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls under his leadership, stepped down as owner in 1997 after two Louisiana newspapers reported he would be indicted for gambling fraud.
RELATED: Take a look at officials' reactions to Trump's first presidential pardon:
Officials react to Trump's first presidential pardon
Officials react to Trump's first presidential pardon
Sen. John McCain of Arizona: Trump "undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law" with the Arpaio pardon.
Sen. John McCain said in a statement on Friday:
"No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold. Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders. The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions."
In this photo: Sen. John McCain on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: A "mockery of rule of law."
Jeff Flake, the junior Arizona senator, said Trump should have let "the judicial process ... take its course."
Jeff Flake's primary challenger Kelli Ward applauded Trump and called Arpaio's actions as sheriff "heroic."
Arizona 7th Congressional District Rep. Ruben Gallego: Trump "blessed Arpaio's racist and unconstitutional police practices."
Gallego said: "By pardoning Joe Arpaio, Donald Trump has blessed Arpaio's racist and unconstitutional police practices. Trump's pardon of Arpaio is unconscionable and unworthy of the White House. This is Trump's first pardon of a crony. Will it be his last?"
Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates: Trump just revealed "his own contempt for our Constitution."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump "used the cover of the storm," referring to Hurricane Harvey, to pardon Arpaio.
Schumer said: "As millions of people in TX and LA are prepping for the hurricane, the President is using the cover of the storm to pardon a man who violated a court's order to stop discriminating against Latinos and nan courageous transgender men and women from serving our nation's Armed Forces. So sad, so weak."
"Instead of seeking to unify the country as promised, POTUS has doubled down on encouraging white supremacists post-Charlottesville. Joe Arpaio ignored the courts and the rule of law in order to systematically target Latinos in AZ. The definition of racism and bigotry."
Vanita Gupta, head of the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights: Trump has "yet again damaged himself."
WASHINGTON – Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the following statement after President Donald Trump issued a pardon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio:
“Instead of a dog whistle, President Trump picked up a bull horn and let out a hateful shout tonight when he pardoned someone who personifies the same bigotry and intolerance we witnessed in Charlottesville. For more than two decades, Sheriff Arpaio terrorized and profiled Arizona’s Latino citizens, was finally voted out of office, and was convicted for failing to follow a court order to cease his unlawful, racist policing.
The white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and others the president excused heard his endorsement of racist and illegal policing policies loud and clear yet again. Trump has, yet again, damaged himself, the rule of law, and our country tonight. This pardon sends a dangerous message that a law enforcement officer who abused his position of power and defied a court order can simply be excused by a president who himself clearly does not respect the law.”
In this photo, Vanita Gupta is seen in the Washington D.C., on December 16, 2016. Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut: This is a "middle finger to America."
Republican strategist and conservative commentator Ana Navarro: "It's another slap in the face to the Latino community."
"This is a slap in the face to the Latino community, to most of us in the Latino community — perhaps not the guy who hates taco trucks — but a lot of other Latinos see Joe Arpaio as a symbol of racism of discrimination, of racial profiling, of abuses of civil rights, and the president of the United States has seen fit to pardon him today in a very extraordinary move, and I think he didn't do it in Arizona earlier in the week because he knew all hell would break loose.
Because he knew there would be thousands of impromptu protesters that would have shown up outside that rally to protest that act and what it would have meant. That's why the mayor of Phoenix warned him not to go to Arizona, because he was afraid that he was going to pardon Joe Arpaio. and what that would mean in that community — turning it into another Charlottesville.
So we have a president of the United States, a so-called president of the United States — I call him president of the divided states — that in the last two weeks, has stood with racists, with white supremacists, with neo-Nazis, and now with this man who is a symbol for civil rights abuses and racial profiling. He is the President of 34 percent of Americans, that's about it."
In this photol, Ana Navarro (L) appears in New York City on October 27, 2016. Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for New York Times
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse:
"Arpaio systemically discriminated against AZ Latinos in defiance of our Constitution and ignored our courts," Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said on Friday. "He does not deserve a pardon."
"Now is a time to bind the wounds left by white nationalists’ repugnant attacks in Charlottesville. Instead, President Trump has again doubled down on the side of ignorance, bigotry, intolerance, and hate."
The American Civil Liberties Union said the pardon is a "presidential endorsement of racism."
"President Trump has pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who was found guilty of criminal contempt for deliberately violating a federal court order that prohibited illegal detentions based only on suspicions about immigration status.
The ruling stems from an initial lawsuit brought by Latino residents of Maricopa who successfully challenged Arpaio’s policies of racial profiling and illegal detentions. The plaintiff class was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and partner organizations. Arpaio repeatedly flouted court orders in that civil rights case, leading to both civil and criminal contempt rulings against him.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang said:
'With his pardon of Arpaio, Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing. Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and have been struck down by the courts. His pardon of Arpaio is a presidential endorsement of racism.'"
Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone: "Eat it, liberals!"
Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts: "Nobody is above the law. Period."
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla: "Another attack on American values."
Read Padilla's full statement on the Arpaio pardon below:
SACRAMENTO – California Secretary of State Alex Padilla released the following statement in response to President Trump's pardon of former Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio:
"As if his abhorrent behavior wasn't enough regarding Charlottesville, today Trump doubled down on his endorsement of racism in America.
Mr. Trump's pardoning of Joe Arpaio is another attack on American values and makes a mockery of our justice system. Joe Arpaio is a convicted felon who openly promoted racial profiling and discrimination against American citizens who are Latina and Latino.
This pardon further divides our nation, fuels bigotry and undermines the rule of law. How long will our legislative leaders in Washington stand by and do nothing?"
In this photo, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaks appears on July 19, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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He avoided prison, was fined $1 million and was suspended for a year by the NFL. But the episode effectively ended his NFL career.
Rice, an NFL Hall of Famer who played on three of DeBartolo's Super Bowl-winning teams, said DeBartolo “was like that 12th man” of the great 49ers teams.
“He's the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls,” Rice said. "So today is a great day for him. I'm glad to be here and be a part of that. It's just something I will never forget. This man, he has done so much in the community, has done so much in NFL football."