SportsPulse: Former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson did not shy away from the fact that he had racist teammates while he was in the league. He also explains why time is now in the country to be open and honest about our own prejudice and blind spots. USA TODAY
The memorial honoring former Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was removed from its place outside of RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. on Friday.
Although the team hasn't played there since 1996, the memorial for Marshall — the man who re-named his team the Redskins and moved the franchise from Boston to Washington in 1937— remained until Events DC, the city's sports and entertainment ity that oversees the site, announced its permanent removal.
"This symbol of a person who didn’t believe all men and women were created equal and who actually worked against integration is counter to all that we as people, a city, and nation represent," Events DC chairman Max Brown and CEO Greg O'Dell said in a joint statement. "We believe that injustice and inequality of all forms is reprehensible and we are firmly committed to confronting unequal treatment and working together toward healing our city and country."
Marshall was the last NFL owner to integrate his franchise's roster, as he refused to sign Black players after other teams began doing so in 1946. In 1961, the situation rose to the top levels of the federal government, with then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Interior Secretary Stewart Udall threatening to revoke the lease on D.C. Stadium, which was built on federally owned land, unless Marshall added a Black player in 1962.
Ernie Davis famously refused to play for Marshall after being drafted. The running back forced a trade to the Cleveland Browns, who in turn sent back Bobby Mitchell — the first Black player in Washington history — that year.
Marshall owned the franchise until his death in 1969.
"Removing this statue is a small and an overdue step on the road to lasting equality and justice. We recognize that we can do better and act now. We’ve heard from many of our stakeholders in the community, and we thank you," DC Events said in its statement.
Allowing the memorial to remain on the RFK Campus goes against Events DC’s values of inclusion and equality and is a disturbing symbol to many in the city we serve."
On Friday, the Minnesota Twins announced the removal of a statue of their former owner and founder Calvin Griffith, who made racist comments in the 1970s about the Black community.