THE SWEET SCIENCE

Justice Sought for Former Champ

Nearly 40 years before the great Jackie Robinson stepped to the plate at Ebbets Field, Jack Johnson proved to the sports world that a black man could go toe to toe with the finest white athletes—and win. In 1908, Johnson became the first African-American boxing heavyweight champion of the world. Not surprisingly, he was also public enemy number one in the minds of racists all over the nation. In 1913, Johnson was unjustly convicted of "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes" because his girlfriend was white. As Ken Burns put it in his documentary Unforgivable Blackness, Johnson's enemies "failed to beat him in the ring, (so) his enemies took him to court." Now, John McCain, along with Burns and Rep. Peter King are pushing for a presidential pardon that would right "a grave injustice."