Donald Trump made an unexpected decision on Tuesday to pardon former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was one of the first to praise the President.
DeBartolo was the owner of the 49ers during the most successful run the franchise had. The team won five Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s under his leadership, but DeBartolo stepped down in 1997 after it was reported that he would be indicted for gambling fraud. DeBartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony after he paid former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards $400,000 in exchange for a riverboat gambling license.
Rice was in attendance for the White House announcement on Tuesday along with NFL legends Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley. The former wide receiver threw his support behind DeBartolo and commended Trump for pardoning the 73-year-old.
Trump has pardoned Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the Former Owner of the 49ers
— Christina Aguayo America's Daily Report (@TinaAguayotv) February 18, 2020
DeBartolo avoided prison time but was fined $1 million and suspended for a year by the NFL. He stepped down anyway and handed over control of the 49ers to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York. DeBartolo’s nephew Jed York owns the team now, so it has remained in the same family.
The scandal did not stop DeBartolo from being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. There were also rumors a couple of years back that he could buy another NFL franchise, though that never came to fruition.