Trump Pardons Former 49ers Owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

  • Convicted of failing to report an extortion attempt by former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards
  • Pleaded guilty in 1998 after paying Edwards $400,000 for a riverboat casino license
  • Didn't serve any time in prison, had to pay a $1m fine and was no longer allowed to own the 49ers
Donald Trump speaks during a press conference
President Donald Trump has granted a full pardon to Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty to failing to report a bribe in 1998. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Conviction dates back to 1998

President Donald Trump has granted a full pardon to Edward DeBartolo, Jr., the former owner of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

DeBartolo’s conviction dates back to a federal court case in 1998 in which he pled guilty to a felony charge. He was charged with failing to report a bribe. DeBartolo failed to tell authorities that the former governor of Louisiana had allegedly extorted him for $400,000 in return for a casino license in Louisiana.

failed to tell authorities that the former governor of Louisiana had allegedly extorted him for $400,000

The president’s decision to pardon the billionaire was announced by Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley in the White House on Tuesday morning.

Case in question

According to the FBI, a bribe of $400,000 was paid using $100 bills. As a result of this bribe, DeBartolo was granted a riverboat casino license from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB).

Despite obtaining the license, DeBartolo eventually had to remove himself from the project after details of the deal were investigated. He received a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury.

DeBartolo’s guilty plea resulted in him being fined $1m and being placed on probation for two years. He also agreed to provide testimony against Edwin Edwards and his son, Stephen. This scandal was huge news story during the 1990s.

Then state Governor Edwin Edwards received a conviction in 1999 relating to 17 counts of conspiracy, fraud, extortion, and racketeering. He received a 10-year prison sentence. His son and three others were also convicted.

Five Super Bowl wins

DeBartolo owned the San Francisco 49ers from the mid-1970s until 1997. He stepped down after two local newspapers reported that he would be indicted for fraud. He subsequently transfered ownership of the team to his sibling Denise DeBartolo York.

stepped down after two local newspapers reported that he would be indicted for fraud

Under DeBartolo’s ownership, the NFL team secured five Super Bowl wins. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Support from NFL greats

Several NFL legends lobbied for President Trump to grant a full pardon to DeBartolo, including Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Rice attributed the number of Super Bowls won by the 49ers to DeBartolo. After the president’s decision was announced, Rice said: “Today is a great day for him.”

Other former players who were present at the White House for the announcement included Charles Haley, Ronnie Lott, and Jim Brown. While Rice did not disclose what President Trump said to them, he did say: “I take my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did.” 

President Trump has given a pardon to 18 people since taking office.