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WRE:The integration, segregation, and reintegration of pro-football


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Mark Newgent's series continues:

This is part three in a series on the integration of the Washington Redskins

Part 1: The fight for old DC

Part 2: George Preston Marshall: entrepreneur, racist

Part 3: The integration, segregation, and reintegration of pro-football

Bobby Mitchell’s trade to the Washington Redskins from the Cleveland Browns, in 1961 completed a three-phase process of integration of African-Americans in professional football. To understand the significance of the integration of the Redskins and the importance of Mitchell’s trade to Washington, a survey of the African-American experience in professional football is necessary to appreciate the process that Mitchell completed.


The man most responsible for realizing television’s utility for football was NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle. Rozelle saw the revolutionary power that television could have for professional football and he made sure the league took advantage of it. In 1962, the year the Redskins finally integrated, Rozelle negotiated a lucrative television contract for the league. CBS paid the NFL over $4 million for a television package. In 1964 it paid a whopping $14 million for the NFL television rights. That deal netted each team more than $1 million each. Rozelle abandoned the prior practice of negotiating local television contracts between individual owners and local affiliates. Rozelle collectivized the NFL’s television strategy and bargained with the major networks as a league. He marketed the NFL as an experience and the major television networks paid handsomely to broadcast that experience to an American public that was hungry for the NFL’s brand of professional football. In 1960 the NFL held over 80 games in front of more than three million people. Thirteen years later the league presented 182 games for more than 10 million people.

The experience of World War II and its impact on the American consciousness helped create the conditions for the reintegration of professional football. Concurrently television revolution t boosted the popularity and profitability of the NFL. The increased popularity and profits would have a profound impact on George Preston Marshall’s decision to finally integrate his team, as would the issue of publicly financed stadiums and the power of the African-American sports fan as a consumer.

Click on the above link for the rest of the article.

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