Some Overdue Changes In Washington and Landover, Maryland

Marshall ran afoul of JFK.

Some sports wrongs were righted in Washington, DC and Landover,Maryland. Events DC removed a statue of one-time Washington NFL owner GeorgePreston Marshall which was outside of RFK Stadium. The present Washington ownerDaniel Snyder retired Bobby Mitchell’s number and renamed the lower bowl in hisLandover stadium for Mitchell replacing Marshall’s name. In 1961,President John F. Kennedy’s Interior Department began pressuring Marshall todesegregate his team. Cleveland traded Mitchell to Washington for a top draftpick that was initiated by the White House. Cleveland got the NFL rights toSyracuse University running back Ernie Davis. Marshall, who never hid hisracial views, did not hire any Negro players. The federal government haddecided to build a multi-purpose stadium in Washington. The proposed stadiumforced Marshall’s hand as Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall told Marshallthere was a law that prohibited discrimination in federal facilities. Theproposed D. C. Stadium was a federal facility. Udall gave Marshall an ultimatum,hire Negro players or find somewhere else to play.

Marshall got a 30-year lease with the federal government only after selectingDavis and making the Mitchell deal. Marshall was the last owner in the NationalFootball League to desegregate his team. The NFL banned black players from 1934to 1945 and there was some thought among NFL historians that Marshall’spurchase of the Boston franchise in 1932 and his influence on other owners ledto the policy. Marshall moved his Boston franchise to Washington in 1937.Marshall’s team ran onto the field with the song, “Hail to theRedskins” playing. That tune included a lyric “Fight for OldDixie” which was eventually changed to “Fight for Old D.C”.Marshall remains a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the shrine cannotremove Marshall or O. J. Simpson under its bylaws.

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, left, and his wife Tanya Snyder, listen to head coach Ron Rivera during a news conference at the team’s NFL football training facility, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)