KO that conviction! ask President Obama to toss out Jack Johnson's 1913 rap
BY MICHAEL MCAULIFF
NY Daily News
April 2, 2009
WASHINGTON - African-American boxing legend Jack Johnson could get a posthumous pardon if President Obama heeds a resolution offered Wednesday by former foe John McCain and Long Island GOP Rep. Pete King.
Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, was convicted in 1913 of transporting his white girlfriend across state lines for immoral purposes - a conviction now recognized as racially motivated.
Johnson fled the country to keep fighting, and returned in 1920 to serve a year in prison as his career spiraled downward.
"At the time, the heavyweight champion of the world was the leading figure in sports," said King.
"Unfortunately for Jack Johnson, he was not allowed to have the luxury of enjoying his prominence, of enjoying the fact that he was the greatest athlete in the country," King said, adding that black Americans were also robbed of a hero.
The resolution asks Obama to recognize Johnson's contributions to the country, and tear up the conviction.
The lawmakers' push was inspired by Ken Burns' documentary on Johnson, "Unforgivable Blackness."
"This was a man who Muhammad Ali emulated," said Burns. "But Muhammad Ali did his fighting in a decade dedicated to civil rights. Jack Johnson did it in a decade in which more African-Americans were lynched than at any other time."
The White House declined to comment on the effort, but King and McCain predicted the first African-American President would pardon the first black heavyweight champion.
"It will be an expression, in some ways, that we have come a long way from those days," McCain said.