The TNF broadcast missed an opportunity to share the full context of George Preston Marshall’s contemptible legacy with the Washington Commanders.
Dan Snyder is widely considered to be the NFL’s worst owner, which is a pretty impressive feat in a billionaire’s club headed by wealthy moguls. Still, no one seems to be as insufferably inhumane as Snyder, who fled a congressional subpoena by flocking to the Mediterranean coastline in his yacht. It gets even worse in a recent ESPN report, which reveals that Snyder has “dirt” on the NFL — and that virtually every other NFL owner hates him.
The morally bankrupt Snyder, who was adamant that he would never rename the Redskins franchise, follows in a legacy of terrible human beings to own Washington’s team. It only makes sense that Snyder would safeguard the name picked by George Preston Marshall, an infamous racist who has been virtually disowned by the modern Commanders franchise.
Unfortunately, the Thursday Night Football broadcast on Amazon Prime pulled a famous quote from Marshall about the Bears, one that would have been perfectly fine coming from anyone but him.
While Al Michaels mentioned that Marshall was “not one the most revered guys in the history of the league,” it’s a massive understatement that omits just how unjust and intolerant Marshall was as the team’s founder.
TNF broadcast glosses over George Preston Marshall’s contemptible legacy
Those seeking context on how racist George Preston Marshall was can be directed to the “Racism” tab on his Wikipedia page. But for those who are looking for a singular example, there’s the fact that Marshall made history as the last NFL owner to racially integrate his team.
It gets worse: Marshall also successfully pressured other NFL owners not to sign Black players until two teams did so in 1946. Marshall imposed his intolerant beliefs onto his own team until 1962, when Stewart Udall and Robert F. Kennedy issued him an ultimatum: sign a Black player or the 30-year lease on their home stadium would be revoked. Since the stadium was funded by the federal government and located on federal land, it came under federal jurisdiction. Marshall complied, drafting running back Ernie Davis, who had just made history as the first Black recipient of the Heisman Trophy in 1961.
NFL reporters tuned into the TNF broadcast were disappointed to not only see Marshall mentioned, but to see “no real mention of his misdeeds.”
Michaels said Marshall “talked a lot of trash”, but banning players on account of race goes beyond the confines of simply talking trash.
Although he was quoted during the Bears-Commanders broadcast, the Washington franchise has worked tirelessly to remove any association with Marshall. His statue outside the stadium has been torn down, and his name has been removed from the Ring of Fame at FedEx Stadium.
There is no reference to Marshall on the team’s website, and his name was also removed from a wall of history at the Commanders training facility.
In name and in remembrance, this is no longer George Preston Marshall’s team. Like a Confederate relic, the statue in his honor has been torn down as contemporary sports fans reflect on his harmful legacy that denied Black players opportunity for decades.
Whenever George Preston Marshall’s name is uttered, it must be done with a full accounting of who he was: a man who named his football team by mocking Native Americans and excluded Black players from playing on it.