Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have picked up a curious ally in their push to secure a presidential pardon for boxing legend Jack Johnson.
The two lawmakers have been joined by former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson to encourage President Barack Obama to posthumously pardon Johnson, a black man who was arrested for violating the Mann Act for "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes." Tyson started the Jack Johnson petition on Change.org.
"Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world, is long overdue a pardon," Tyson writes on the Change.org site. "Johnson paved the way for black boxers like me."
Pardoning Johnson has become a cause celeb in recent years, complete with a YouTube plea:
And a Ken Burns documentary:
So now add to the mix Tyson, who got some atta-boys from the senators: On April 3 and 4, McCain and Reid tweeted their support for Tyson's petition.
"One great boxer [Tyson] standing up for another," tweeted Reid, a former boxer. He also tweeted a photo of his meeting with "the champ."
The two must have really hit it off, because Tyson tweeted kind words about his "friend" Reid's memoir, though it appears Tyson thinks Reid might be president, or maybe he thinks the Capitol is at the White House. At any rate:
These days Tyson's image may be one of a cuddly, face-tattooed, pigeon breeder, but it is worth remembering he has a checkered and violent past, including a rape conviction that came with a prison term. Oh, and he bit Evander Holyfield's ear, too.
Perhaps this is why McCain tweeted his support for Tyson's petition less effusively: "Thanks to @MikeTyson for joining effort to pardon Jack Johnson’s racially-motivated conviction- sign the petition."
We asked both offices about the Reid-McCain-Tyson partnership. Reid's office didn't respond.
"I don't know if I'd call it a 'partnership,'" said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. "Sen. McCain greatly appreciates Mike Tyson's support for pardoning Jack Johnson and righting a grave historical wrong."