By Sean Crose
Who says Republicans and Democrats can’t work together?
Republican senatorial powerhouse John McCain is teaming up with Democratic senatorial giant Harry Reid for a good cause – one that actually pertains to boxing. For McCain and Reid are now working to posthumously pardon heavyweight great Jack Johnson.
Johnson, for those who don’t know, was the first black heavyweight champion of the world. This did not make Johnson particularly popular in the United States of his title reign (the very early 20th century). The America of a century or so ago was, despite its positive qualities, a racist place. Sometimes the word “racist” gets tossed around too loosely, but sometimes it just fits. And, when it comes to the story of Jack Johnson, it just fits.
Johnson, as McCain’s web site aptly states, was convicted “under the Mann Act in 1913, a law that prohibited transporting women across state lines for ‘immoral purposes.’” That pretty much means he traveled from one state to another with a white woman he was reportedly cozy with. Johnson, it must be noted, married several white women over time – a point of outrage that angered the people of the time almost as much as the man’s title reign did.
“Federal marshals arrested Johnson,” the Las Vegas Sun writes, “after he crossed the Illinois state border with his white girlfriend, accusing him of human trafficking. The incident tarnished Johnson’s career and sent him to jail for one year.”
“Jack Johnson was the greatest athlete of his time and a barrier-breaking boxer,” Reid claims. “Jack Johnson deserves to be remembered for his incredible career, not for the racism that unfairly sent him to prison.” You don’t have to be a card carrying member of the DNC to see the truth in those words.
“Despite this resolution passing both chambers of Congress several times in recent years,” McCain states, “no pardon has been issued to date.” Both senators hope President Obama will eventually issue the pardon now that they have reintroduced their resolution as an amendment to the “Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA).”
This really is a no brainer. It’s hard to find anyone on either side of the political spectrum opposing this potential pardon. Even those who know nothing about boxing or its history can see the conviction of Johnson was archaic and harsh. Add that to the fact that Johnson is one of the most prominent athletes – never mind boxers – in history, and there’s all the more reason for the President to put pen to paper.
Truth be told, both McCain and Reid are diehard fight fans (as is Mitt Romney). With such powerful allies, it’s confusing as to why boxing appears so lawless and unorganized in the United States. That discussion, however, can be held at another time. For now, it’s worth noting that steps are being taken in Washington to right a historic wrong.
Johnson himself would undoubtedly be pleased.