A day after the D.C. government removed a monument to former Washington franchise owner George Preston Marshall, the team has also taken a step to disassociate itself from Marshall’s racist legacy.
Washington announced today that it is renaming the lower level of FedEx Field in honor of Bobby Mitchell, the team’s first black player. Marshall’s name appears nowhere in the team’s announcement, but the level had previously been named for Marshall.
The team also announced that it is retiring Mitchell’s No. 49 jersey.
“There is no one more deserving of these honors than the late Bobby Mitchell,” owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “Bobby was one of the most influential players not only in our team’s history, but in the National Football League. He excelled on the field, in the front office and most importantly in his community where he had a tremendous impact on the lives of so many through his charitable efforts. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known.”
Mitchell died in April at the age of 84. His widow, Gwen Mitchell, released a statement through the team.
“Bobby would have been thrilled and humbled by this wonderful recognition,” she said. “We were married for 64 years and while he worked hard and traveled throughout his life and was a dedicated football professional, he was also a totally dedicated family man. He was blessed by God with a large extended family and great friends. He was totally engaged in his work and his family and was a truly great man and a great husband. I would like to thank Dan Snyder and the entire Washington Redskins organization for this great honor.”
Washington was the only NFL team without any black players in 1962 when Marshall, under threat of being evicted from his stadium by the government, traded for Mitchell to integrate the team. Mitchell was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.