Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a joint letter Tuesday to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a justice reform bill. The pair says it's the type of reform players have been working toward the past two seasons.
The letter was released the same day as the NFL meetings where owners and players are seeking a way to highlight social issues while taking the focus away from demonstrations during the national anthem. Among the topics discussed were enhancing the players' platforms for speaking out on social issues, and the league's policy that suggests but does not mandate players standing for the national anthem.
The bill, known as the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, is backed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). The legislation aims to limit the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences that would target only the most serious drug and violent criminal offenders.
"The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act would address many of the issues on which our players have worked to raise awareness over the last two seasons," Baldwin and Goodell wrote. "This bill seeks to improve public safety, increase rehabilitation, and strengthen families. If enacted, it would be a positive next step in our collective efforts to move our nation forward."
"In a somewhat gridlocked and partisan Washington D.C., this is truly the definition of a bipartisan bill," NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said.
Lockhart said the league's support of the bill comes after discussions with current and former NFL players, including Doug Baldwin along with three Philadelphia Eagles players (Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long and Torrey Smith) and team owner Jeffrey Lurie.
The bill also would give judges more leeway on sentencing and allows low-risk inmates with "minimal non-violent criminal histories" to gain early release.
"Ultimately, we all share a responsibility to find a path forward towards unity, one that goes well beyond sports," Baldwin and Goodell wrote. "The National Football League applauds the introduction of this bipartisan criminal justice reform bill as well as your ongoing commitment to upholding America's promise of justice for all. We stand ready to work with you to advance this important legislation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.