Mr DeBartolo had hit legal troubles over the years, including a sexual assault charge he settled out of court and a corruption case in Louisiana. He pleaded guilty to the latter, receiving two years probation and a $1 million fine.
White House officials have yet to describe the process under which Mr Trump decided to pardon the former NFL owner.
NFL great Charles Haley spoke outside the White House with other football legends, praising the former San Francisco 49ers owner.
"We all make mistakes," Mr Haley said. "I know what he's done ... for the kids."
He hailed the pardoned Mr DeBartolo for his charitable work and for how he treated his players.
Jerry Rice, a 49er wide receiver, said the president spoke to the group about Mr DeBartolo's quest to be "the greatest of all time."
The pardon is the latest Mr Trump has applied to a celebrity or wealthy American, though the White House has made a big push to provide lighter or waived sentences to average Americans – especially African-Americans – sentenced for long periods on drug-related charges.
"It was all about family. That's really what they stood for. And that's the reason why I think we won so many championships," Mr Rice said.
"Eddie was like that 12th man that was on that football field. You know that this guy, you know, he wanted us to win. And I think he's the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls. So today is a great day for him. I'm glad to be here and be a part of that," he added, declining to describe the group's conversation with the president.
"I take my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did," the NFL legend said of the pardon.