Marshall, the franchise’s founding owner, was the last NFL owner to integrate his team’s roster, and the removal of his statue followed years of lobbying by residents who opposed memorializing an owner who was against desegregation.
Jordan Wright, Marshall’s granddaughter, recently said she did not oppose the removal of his statue.
“No, not at all — not one damn bit,” she said. “I was glad to see it come down. It’s past time to see it go.”
In the two weeks since Coach Ron Rivera first spoke out about the killing of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police last month, the Redskins have pushed for actionable change. They developed a town-hall program led by six black employees and created an internal Black Engagement Network for professional development and cultural understanding. They received a $250,000 donation from owner Daniel Snyder.
The franchise also retired No. 49 to honor Bobby Mitchell, the Redskins’ first black player who became a scout and front-office executive and died in April. They acknowledged Mitchell’s significant contributions on and off the field in 41 years with the team and renamed FedEx Field’s lower seating bowl from the George Preston Marshall Level to the Bobby Mitchell Level.
Critics, including D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), have accused the Redskins of hypocrisy, fighting for racial equality while refusing to change their team name.
Marshall founded the team as the Boston Braves in 1932 but rebranded it to the “Redskins” shortly after to distinguish it from the baseball team in the city with the same name. After lackluster support in Boston, he relocated the team to Washington in 1937.
Marshall pioneered parts of the NFL — halftime show, fight song, forward pass — but refused to integrate. Of Marshall’s legacy, former Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich wrote: “He was widely considered one of pro football’s greatest innovators, and its leading bigot.”
In every part of life, Marshall opposed integration. He specified in his will that none of the $6 million he left behind after his death in 1969 could be used to integrate schools. He was the last NFL owner to integrate, and he signed a black player in 1962 only because the federal government threatened to prevent him from playing in D.C. Stadium, the construction of which he spearheaded and considered “the apex of my whole sports career.”