It’s revealed at Fairmont Heights High School, where math teacher George Wake gets students’ attention on Monday mornings “with some kind of math problem involving the Redskins and Cowboys.” And it’s evident at DeMatha High, where boys’ basketball players must declare their allegiance before Washington-Dallas games, with the losing side running extra wind sprints the following day.
The deep relationship between the Washington area’s black sports fans and the Redskins is supported by a new
Washington Post poll
, which found that two-thirds of African American fans have a favorable view of the team and four in 10 feel that way “strongly.” Less than half of white fans have an overall favorable view. The racial differences concerning Daniel Snyder, the team’s owner, are even starker. Black fans are fairly evenly divided on Snyder, but 72 percent of white sports fans in the area give Snyder negative marks, compared with 9 percent positive.
Snyder, through a spokesman, and other Redskins officials declined to comment for this story.
There are several explanations for these differences. The team has spent decades playing in largely black neighborhoods, from its current home in Prince George’s County — which black fans view more favorably than whites by a more than two-to-one margin — to RFK Stadium on East Capitol Street, surrounded by carryout joints and barbershops.
“Look at where RFK is and was. It’s in the heart of the city,” said NBA guard Roger Mason Jr., a lifelong Redskins fan who followed the team with his father in his youth. “I’m not talking about the White House. I’m talking about Southeast.”
Black fans are more likely to be interested in the NFL as a whole; more than half of black fans in the region express a “great deal” of interest in professional football, compared with 37 percent of white fans. Black fans are also more likely to hail from the Washington area; the Redskins are rated much more positively by fans of all races who have lived here at least 10 years. But even among fans who have been in the area for at least a decade, seven in 10 blacks have favorable views of the Redskins, compared to five in 10 whites.
The black community’s affection for the team, which can be traced to the arrival of its first African American stars in the mid-1960s, is on display throughout the region today.
The Like That Barber Shop, on Good Hope Road, hangs photos on the wall of Redskins players who have driven to Anacostia for haircuts, including current stars Fred Davis and LaRon Landry. Radio station 95.5 continues to play weekly Redskins songs, with singer Black Boo laying down football lyrics over rap and R&B beats. Many parishioners at the First Baptist Church of Highland Park, less than a mile from FedEx Field, switch to the 7:30 a.m. service during football season so they don’t miss Redskins games.