On Friday morning, a crew removed the memorial to George Preston Marshall outside RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. after it was vandalized overnight.
Marshall was the founding owner of the Washington Redskins, a staunch segregationist and racist who refused to sign any Black players to the team until 1962, when the federal government forced his hand.
The words “change the name” had been painted in red on the front of the memorial, a reference to the offensive name Marshall gave the team in 1933 and which current owner Dan Snyder has fought to keep.
Born in West Virginia, Marshall and three partners were awarded a football franchise in Boston in 1932; originally called the Braves, Marshall changed the name to Redskins the next year after his partners left the team.
While NFL teams began integrating in 1946, Marshall refused. It wasn’t until 1962, when U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy told Marshall he had to add a Black player or the team’s 30-year lease for D.C. Stadium, which was just a year old and paid for and owned by the Washington city government, would be revoked.
Marshall responded by drafting Syracuse star Ernie Davis, the first Black Heisman Trophy winner, that same year, but Davis refused to play for Marshall and demanded to be traded. Davis was traded to Cleveland for Bobby Mitchell, and Mitchell became the first player to integrate Washington’s roster.
But being forced to integrate his football team wasn’t the end of Marshall’s racist behavior: in his will he stipulated that his money should go toward establishing the Redskins Foundation, and that the foundation’s aim should be the betterment of “the health, education and welfare” of children in D.C.
Except it also said that not one penny from his foundation would ever be spent on “any purpose which supports the principle of racial integration in any form.”
Marshall’s family was appalled, and the courts weren’t having it either, tossing the clause out of the will.
The lower level of FedEx Field, Washington’s current home stadium, is still named after Marshall.
It wasn’t a great day for dead bigots: also on Friday morning the Minnesota Twins removed a statue of Calvin Griffith from outside Target Field. In a statement the team acknowledged the role Griffith played in the team’s history — he was majority owner and de facto general manager for nearly 30 years — but apologized for putting it up in the first place and said that taking it down is a recognition of the pain it caused.
In 1978, Griffith told a Lions Club in Waseca, Minn. that he’d moved the team from Washington D.C. to Minnesota “when I found out you only had 15,000 Blacks here. ...We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking whites here.”