News & Politics

A Memorial to the Racist Former Owner of DC’s Football Team Has Been Removed

Events DC took it down from where it stood outside RFK stadium.

A monument to former Washington NFL owner George Preston Marshall that sat outside RFK stadium until earlier today. Photograph via iStock.

This morning, Events DC removed the George Preston Marshall monument that stood outside RFK stadium. The memorial had long been a source of controversy given Marshall’s well-known racist views. During the ongoing protests over the killing of George Floyd, the phrase “change the name” had been painted on the memorial, a reference to the team’s offensive moniker, which current owner Dan Snyder has refused to alter.

Marshall, who founded the team and owned it from 1932 to 1969, was a staunch segregationist, actively working to keep African American players out of the league in the ’30s and ’40s. Marshall marketed his football club as “the team of the South” and had the marching band play “Dixie” on the field for 23 years.

Though he once said he would sign African American players when the Harlem Globetrotters signed white players, Marshall eventually integrated the team in 1961 after Stewart Udall, then the Secretary of the Interior, threatened not to let the team play on the federal land where the stadium stood. Washington’s football team was the last in the NFL to integrate.

There have been attempts to move the monument before. In 2001, a former RFK general manager wanted to move it to make room for a concession stand, but nobody wanted to pay the $30,000 shipping costs to send the monument to Marshall’s family, and District politicians didn’t want it taken anywhere downtown.

“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 said in a statement. “Removing this statue is a small and an overdue step on the road to lasting equality and justice.” The statement adds that “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.”

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.