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City Paper - Redskins Segregationist Past, and Efforts to End It, Recalled


Dan T.

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McKenna can be a compelling writer when his subject is local sports. He's done great columns on local street basketball legends, DC high school sports, and other local sports personalities... this one about a local tennis personality is a good example. But to me, his obvious animosity toward Daniel Snyder and the Redskins dings his credibility.

I'll leave it to others to decide how much of the following article about George Preston Marshall and the Redskins of that era is skewed by the ax McKenna grinds... Certainly the timing of publication can be called into question. Still, it is an interesting read...

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Fight for New Dixie

Fifty years ago, a Washington-Baltimore preseason game sparked protests over the Redskins' segregation policy

By Dave McKenna • September 2, 2011

Fifty years ago this summer, Marie Young took time out from her normal civil rights activism to picket a football game.

A Washington Redskins game.

“We picketed a lot of places,” recalls Young. “But it usually wasn’t about football.”

The 1961 Redskins weren’t your usual football team. They were, in fact, the last segregated squad in the NFL.

At the time, Young was a lieutenant in Virginia’s Third Force, a group that had been founded a year earlier to fight for integration in schools in the Tidewater region and to eliminate the state’s discriminatory poll taxes.

But racism wasn’t limited to the classroom or the voting booth. And Young, now 89, recalls being at a small meeting at the home of an organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) when talk turned to the Redskins.

George Preston Marshall’s squad was coming to Norfolk, Va., to face the Baltimore Colts in a preseason game on the campus of Old Dominion University. The exhibition’s locale, like Marshall’s failure to hire any black players, fit with the owner’s longtime marketing plan to make his squad the team of the South. Foreman Field, ODU’s home stadium, had a segregated seating policy.

So the Third Force decided to add a sporting event to its protesting calendar.

“We were normally working on schools and voting. But we knew the Redskins didn’t have any black players,” Young says. “So we said we’d picket.”

The Redskins had been on civil rights protesters’ radar for a while by 1961. Every squad in the NFL except the Redskins had integrated by 1952. But Marshall wouldn’t budge.

In February 1957, for example, the NAACP went after Marshall by running a picket line outside the Philadelphia hotel where an NFL owners meeting was taking place.

The owners’ response to the protesters’ pleas for integration? They unanimously passed a resolution honoring the Redskins boss: “George Marshall, having completed 25 years in professional football, is the greatest asset sports has ever known with his honesty, integrity, and his perfect frankness in expressing what he believes.”

The Washington Post’s Shirley Povich, a longtime critic of Marshall, was appalled. “There are those who will contend that a more debatable statement has never been uttered in the entire history of the spoken word,” Povich wrote of the resolution.

But protests against Marshall’s racist ways peaked in the 1961 season.

There are a couple of reasons why that year was so pivotal. First, the team was scheduled to move into D.C. Stadium, a brand new venue on federal government land. And John F. Kennedy’s new interior secretary, Stewart Udall, decided that the stadium would be his way to force the Redskins to integrate.

In a 2002 interview, Udall, who died last year, told me that Marshall was one of the most despicable characters he’d ever met.

“The guy hated everybody but the whores,” Udall said.

But Udall figured Kennedy would be wary of getting into a public spat with the Redskins owner because of the team’s popularity in the South. So Udall took his Marshall plan to the president’s brother instead.

“I didn’t discuss [the Redskins] with the president,” Udall said, “but I went to Bobby [Kennedy], and the attorney general just told me, ‘Go get ’em! Make him do it!’ So I did.”

Before the 1961 season, Udall told Marshall that if the Redskins didn’t sign black players, they couldn’t play in D.C. Stadium.

But Marshall, with lobbying help from his partner Edward Bennett Williams and the NFL, talked his way into delaying the integration for a year. There was fear among civil rights observers that if the pressure let up, Marshall would just ignore his agreement and stay segregated.

More: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/41422/why-a-washington-baltimore-game-sparked-redskins-segregation-policy-protests/

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The article is what it is. It just talked about certain events and key figures that helped make the Redskins end segregation.........

I think a more interesting story would be about African-American football fans during the period before segregation. Reason being, you have some who still rooted for the local team and those who were against the Redskins, which eventually led them to the Cowboys.

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People can argue against this all they want, and call me a Snyder apologist or worse to their hearts content; but I still sincerely hope Dan kicks this ***** ass all over that court house. McKenna's an A1 prick when it comes to our team, and has been for long enough. This may be our history, but 5 days prior from the start of a new season under a COMPLETELY changed owner and organization; one can't help feel there's an ulterior motive behind this given McKenna's clear anti- Snyder/ Redskins agenda.

I've as much time for this cretin as I have for JLC, Reid, Florio, Cowturd, Wilbon et all ..... absolutely NONE what so ever.

Hail.

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The amazing thing to me is that the Skins integrated four years AFTER the Red Sox did, and the Sox are always rightly castigated for their stubborness on the issue. The story of the Redskins is also interesting in the larger context of the time. There is still discussion that the federal government forcing integration was the wrong approach as businesses would eventually integrate out of self interest. In the case of the Redskins (and the Red Sox), that obviously was not the case. Both suffered horribly on the field because of their policy. It would also be interesting to see if the money Marshall made off his marketing efforts and radio broadcasts in the South made up for the loss receipts he made by fielding a terrible integrated team in a heavily black city.

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It would also be interesting to see if the money Marshall made off his marketing efforts and radio broadcasts in the South made up for the loss receipts he made by fielding a terrible integrated team in a heavily black city.

I don't know if it's more accurate to point to Marshall's personal bias or the vast Southern white audience he targeted as the reason the team stayed segregated longer than any other in the NFL. You could point to both - marketing the Redskins as the Team of the South and Marshall's personal position on race.

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I'm no Dan Snyder fan but I have no respect for McKenna's work or opinions. I'm just sorry Synder gave him a modicum of legitimacy by acknowledging his existence. Yet another bone-headed Snyder move ...

GPM was a butt. I don't need McKenna to tell me that.

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Our team's racist past is largely why I continue to support a name and logo change for our franchise.

It's called Karma.

This is getting a little off topic (sorry Dan); but when a very small minority of the American Indians in the US are the only ones complaining, why should we be forced to change our name and logo that has nothing to do with the racist policy's of our past?

Anyone seriously suggesting the Washington Redskins name and logo are racist have an ulterior agenda and honestly aren't worth the time of day.

Hail.

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Speaking as a black man - who cares. Might as well write an article on the evils of slavery while you're at it.

Seems like a filler piece to garner attention.

The only hook I see for publishing it now is that the Norfolk protest took place 50 years ago this summer...

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Well, that certainly needed to be brought back up again.

Say! There's a sleeping dog!

He's been quiet for a long time, huh?

I have an idea.

Let's go kick him right in the nuts!

I like McKenna, but i just don't see the point of this.

~Bang

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Rather odd topic for sports reporting a few days before the season opener. I didn't disagree with some of his Dan Snyder stuff in the past but there really is no point in this history lesson other than pure hate for the team that I can see.

Does this guy actually do any sports reporting that is Redskins related? I haven't seen it around if he does.

Maybe he's one of the guys stirring up the "Redskins mascot is racist" crap too?

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All he did was state facts. Dave McKenna can no longer write a column. He proved over the years that he has a small mind that is only capable of slander, and slanted opinion. All he can do now is write retrospectives of events that are a half century old. You could write a article like this about 90% of the companies that did business south of the Mason Dixon Line in that time and era. Coca-Cola did not hire blacks early on, The Washington Post still listed classifieds that said "Help Wanted- White Only" until 1959 and the list goes on and on. He targeted the Redskins because he has a ax to grind.

I don't agree with the policies of the time but we all know it happened, and we all know that the Redskins were far from being the only company to instill these polices. The only reason why they were the last NFL team to have a black player is because they were the team of the South at the time. Unfortunately, at the time the thought is that it would have been bad for business. For him to bring garbage like this up like it is news is ludicrous.

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I don't see how this is a jab at Snyder. It's all based on true events.

Our team's racist past is largely why I continue to support a name and logo change for our franchise.

It's called Karma.

Indeed. It's the reason why many blacks to this day still refuse to support the team. While I'm a black man who supports them because they're the local team, I can see why many blacks still won't.

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I completely ignored the fact about the timing of the article :ols: Since it has been fifty years, I still won't penalize him too much for writing it, however, I still think the story would have been better if he had some statements from some African-American fans around that time......

My guess is that he would have had a hard time finding any African American fans from that time. One, because it was 50 years ago. Two, because there were very few blacks who rooted for the team then.

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Maryland didn't have it's first black football player until 1963. The entire SEC did not have a black football player until 1966. Alabama did not have a black player until the 1970's. The Redskins were actually ahead of the curve for their fanbase of Maryland-south.

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Seriously? Please, enlighten me as to how our name and logo are racist without taking them TOTALLY out of context for what they actually are.

Hail.

The term "redskin" refers to the color the skin becomes after a Native American was scalped by bounty hunters. Thus, it evokes one of many painful memories for that particular group. Also, while some say that "redskin" refers to the war paint they would smear on themselves before going into battle, only some Native American groups actually exercised this practice.

To be honest, when I first heard the controversy over the name, my initial reaction was, "I don't see it as racist." But, then again, I don't know the Native American experience, and it would be presumptuous of me to decide FOR them what is and what isn't racist or what "isn't meant to be" racist. But, what really made me change my mind on it was watching an old episode of "The Lone Ranger." In a scene where Tonto was being harassed by cowboys, one of them called him "redskin" in a way one might disparagingly use the "n-word" towards me. Even if it's just "a small number of Native American groups," tradition or not, intentional or not, I think we all need to be open-minded and listen to what they have to say about the matter.

---------- Post added September-7th-2011 at 01:58 PM ----------

Maryland didn't have it's first black football player until 1963. The entire SEC did not have a black football player until 1966. Alabama did not have a black player until the 1970's. The Redskins were actually ahead of the curve for their fanbase of Maryland-south.

They were still overdue. They shouldn't get a pat on the back, just because they beat a couple of colleges.

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My guess is that he would have had a hard time finding any African American fans from that time. One, because it was 50 years ago. Two, because there were very few blacks who rooted for the team then.

I am not criticizing him for not doing it because I know it would be difficult, but if it had that element in the article, I think it would have been better.

Shoot, I can't even get an interview with people today even with all of the technology advancements :doh:

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The term "redskin" refers to the color the skin becomes after a Native American was scalped by bounty hunters. Thus, it evokes one of many painful memories for that particular group.

I consider myself reasonably well read, and I have NEVER heard that explanation for the origin of the term "redskin."

Edit: A little google searching casts serious doubt on that explanation for the term.

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The term "redskin" refers to the color the skin becomes after a Native American was scalped by bounty hunters. Thus, it evokes one of many painful memories for that particular group.
I consider myself reasonably well read, and I have NEVER heard that explanation for the origin of the term "redskin."

That's because it's not true lol...

---------- Post added September-7th-2011 at 07:04 AM ----------

Speaking as a black man - who cares. Might as well write an article on the evils of slavery while you're at it.

Seems like a filler piece to garner attention.

Speaking as a black man--I agree. :yes:

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They were still overdue. They shouldn't get a pat on the back, just because they beat a couple of colleges.

They beat every college (most of which are state institutions) in a major conference that was south of them. I'm not saying that they should get a pat on the back, but they were not the only guilty party here. The Redskins fan base was in a area that was still full of Jim Crow laws at the time. If you look at the area that they catered to geographically compared to the rest of the NFL at the time, it only makes sense that they were the last team to integrate.

You also have to keep in mind that at the time many NFL teams took local college players to help increase the gate. There were zero top level programs that had African-American student-athletes in their fanbase area at the time.

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See stw, I could give that credence if it wasn't a MINORITY of the many American Indians in the US that continue to complain. The majority openly admit they have zero problem with our name and logo and take it for what it is, JUST the name of a football team. Nothing more, nothing less.

Why should we be forced to sacrifice 78 years of the 'Redskin' name upon which our history is built, both here and in Boston before; for the sake of a minority of protesters? What if we did change, and another group found fault. Should we kowtow to them too? I mean no offence here, but to equate the N word with the Redskins name in this instance is absolutely preposterous. If we openly ostracised Native American's I could half understand the minority's point, but nothing could be further from the truth. Heck, there's a lot of accounts that a big part in the name change to begin was in honour of the HC Dietz at the time who's from the Sioux Nation. If that's not respect for American Indian heritage, I don't know what is.

Those attacking this organizations name and logo are hiding behind a pretence of racism that patently both isn't and never was there in that context and I would suggest have a far bigger agenda than this organization their bandwagoning off.

Hail.

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