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Redskins taking Marshall off Ring of Fame

The Washington Redskins are removing George Preston Marshall’s name from their Ring of Fame at FedEx Field, according to a team spokesman, less than a week after his statue was removed from their former home. Marshall was the last NFL owner to integrate his franchise.

The Redskins also will remove him from their history wall outside the locker room at their practice facility.

Last week, Events DC, which owns the land at RFK Stadium, had Marshall’s statue removed from outside the building. The Redskins Ring of Fame encircles the middle level of the stadium, with names of former players, coaches and contributors to their history. Marshall’s name will be taken down.

On Saturday, the team said it would retire Bobby Mitchell’s No. 49; in 1962, he became the first African American to play for the franchise under Marshall. But it happened only because Interior Secretary Stewart Udall told Marshall he would otherwise revoke the newly signed 30-year lease to D.C. Stadium, which sat on federal land.

The lower bowl at FedEx also was renamed in honor of Mitchell, replacing Marshall.

Marshall, who was voted to the Hall of Fame in 1983, owned the Redskins from their inception as a franchise in 1932 in Boston until his death in 1969. They were initially called the Braves because they shared the same stadium as the then-Boston Braves. A year later, the franchise started playing games at Fenway Park and changed its name to the Redskins.

The team moved to Washington in 1937. Marshall was an influential owner — he helped foster the evolution of the forward pass and embraced television in the 1950s, allowing the franchise to become the most dominant team in the South.

But Marshall resisted efforts and pressure to integrate his roster, becoming the last NFL owner to do so in 1962. Marshall once said he would sign African American players when the Harlem Globetrotters signed white players. The Redskins were the southernmost franchise, and Marshall had their marching band play “Dixie” on the field for 23 years. The NAACP protested against Marshall at a meeting of league owners in 1957 and once picketed outside his home.

For years, columnists wrote about the lack of Black players on Washington’s roster, but it didn’t deter Marshall. In the spring of 1961, however, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall started to apply pressure on Marshall to integrate his roster. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle later got involved in trying to persuade Marshall to relent. He was quoted in stories wondering why, if “[a]ll the other teams we play have Negroes, does it matter which team has the Negroes?” That December, Marshall drafted Black running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis with the first pick. But it was later learned that Marshall had traded the selection to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for Mitchell, a running back/receiver who became Washington’s first Black player in 1962.

D.C. Stadium was later renamed RFK Stadium; the Redskins moved to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, in 1997. With the lease on the land at FedEx ending in 2027, the Redskins have been seeking a new home in the Washington area. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has said multiple times that she’d like the team to return to the District. However, she reiterated a roadblock for that return in a recent interview with The Team 980: their nickname.

“It’s an obstacle for us locally, but it’s also an obstacle for the federal government who leases the land to us,” Bowser said.

Owner Dan Snyder said in 2013 he would never change the name, a stance others within the franchise have repeated in subsequent years.

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