The NFL’s Washington Redskins team is making a clean break with its past and is removing the name of founder George Preston Marshall from all official team material, as well as pulling his name from the stadium’s Ring of Fame.
Marshall was an avowed segregationist and the last NFL owner to allow Black players on the team.
He did so in 1962 only after President John Kennedy’s administration threatened to evict the team from playing in the stadium, which was built on federal property.
Last week, the city of Washington tore down Marshall’s statue from outside the team’s former stadium. It had been vandalized with red paint and graffiti.
Among those who said the statue had to go was Marshall’s granddaughter, Jordan Wright, who told The Washington Post it was past time for it to be destroyed.
Marshall moved the Boston Braves football team to Washington in 1937. He pioneered some professional football trademarks, including the halftime show and team fight songs.
“He was widely considered one of pro football’s greatest innovators, and its leading bigot,” the late Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich once wrote.
Marshall was an unapologetic racist who refused to integrate his team years after the league began recruiting Black athletes.
When Marshall died in 1969, his will stated that none of his estate was to go to any institution that backed school integration.
With Marshall’s legacy buried, activists say it is long past time for the Washington football team to change its name, calling the moniker Redskins an insult to Native Americans.
The removal of the Marshall statue and his name is part of a wave of cities and states tearing down monuments and memorials to historical figures activists say celebrate racism and Civil War-era slavery.
The movement to bury racist symbols has also been taken up by corporations. Quaker Oats announced last week it is retiring the Aunt Jemima name and 120-year-old trademark of a smiling Black woman from its pancake mix and syrup bottles.
Mars says its Uncle Ben’s rice, featuring a middle-aged African American man on the box, will “evolve.”