Trump may have pardoned ex-NFL team owner to help him win Ohio
Donald Trump tells an Ohio rally that the presidency has changed him and that he has "become much more diplomatic"/Screenshot

President Donald Trump issued an out-of-nowhere pardon to former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. in a possible bid to win the loyalty of some Ohio voters.


DeBartolo won five Super Bowls in 14 years as 49ers owner, and he remains a popular figure in northeastern Ohio, where his family made their money in commercial real estate, according to the Washington Post's Philip Bump.

"In Youngstown, the DeBartolos weren’t quite royalty, but they weren’t quite not," wrote Bump, who moved to the area as a teen. "I knew the name DeBartolo within weeks of moving to the area. They were a family that had risen to national prominence from an area that was more often the subject of mopey songs or depressing news articles about the American economy. Youngstown was a big loser in the economy of the 1970s and 1980s — but could also boast of being the home to the family that owned a team that kept winning the Super Bowl."

DeBartolo turned over control of the team to his sister in 2000 after pleading guilty to failure to report a felony, after Louisiana's then-Gov. Edwin Edwards offer of a bribe, and served two years' probation and paid a $1 million fine.

Trump pardoned DeBartolo two decades after the matter was resolved, and Bump can't help but think he was partially motivated by November's election.

"There are other reasons for Trump to have been sympathetic to DeBartolo, including that the Youngstown native supported of Trump’s presidency," Bump wrote. "But someone, somewhere, no doubt kept Trump apprised of DeBartolo’s popularity in a region central to American presidential politics."

DeBartolo's nephew Jed York now controls the team, which has maintained community ties in northeastern Ohio through practices at Youngstown State and participation in community events.

"Youngstown is, as York said, a 49ers town," Bump wrote. "It is a 49ers town because of the DeBartolos. And, days after heading to Daytona to woo NASCAR fans, Trump on Tuesday tied himself more closely to that family."