The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Redskins linked to Donald Sterling?

(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Donald Sterling is a pro sports owner who has said and done some particularly unsavory things when it comes to race relations.

This led Rachel Maddow to discuss the history of the Redskins on Monday. The MSNBC host (and occasional Washington Post columnist) began her show by talking about other pro sports owners with unsavory racial resumes, including Marge Schott and George Preston Marshall, the one-time Redskins owner who fought the federal government over integrating his team. (The lower level of FedEx Field continues to bear Marshall’s name.)

“The band used to play Dixie before Redskins games,” Maddow said. “And the Redskins owner, George Preston Marshall, he really did refuse to hire any black players for his team, [years] after the rest of the league integrated. And he wasn’t embarrassed about it; he was proud about it. He said his team would ‘start signing Negros when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.’…

“Ultimately the interior secretary, Stewart Udall, won in this fight with the racist owner of the Redskins, and in 1962 the Redskins did finally consent to draft their first black player….

“George Preston Marshall did not go willingly to his integrated Washington Redskins,” she said. “He never really got over it. When he died in 1969, his will stated that all of his money should go to the Redskins Foundation, and that not a single dollar of his money should be directed by the Redskins Foundation toward ‘any purpose which supports or employs the principal of racial integration in any form.’ ”

Maddow went on to describe the Redskins history as “so freaking unbelievably racist you almost can’t believe it even if you know it.”

“The league basically let George Preston Marshall run the Redskins as a Confederate team in the National Football League, and all these years later there’s still the leftover stink,” she said. “Everybody’s now debating as if we’re in some sort of a historical vacuum about whether or not George Preston Marshall meant it in a racist way when he called that team the Redskins in the first place. I wonder if we should keep the name? Who came up with the name? What was the context?”

Needless to say, Maddow wasn’t the only one to transition between Sterling and the Redskins. Education Secretary Arne Duncan did the same while discussing Sterling on Monday. Via The Post’s Lindsey Layton:

Duncan segued into a rap about Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder, suggesting that owner needs to make some changes. “Here in Washington we have the Washington Redskins – is that name appropriate for a professional football team? I don’t think it is. We should challenge the status quo right here in Washington.”

Probably they won’t be the last two to make this connection.