The Washington Redskins will retire No. 49 to honor running back Bobby Mitchell, the team’s first black player, who died earlier this year — making him just the second Redskin to have his jersey retired in the team’s 88-year history.
The Redskins announced the move Saturday, a day after city officials removed the statue of Redskins founding owner George Preston Marshall outside of RFK Stadium. Marshall, who died in 1969, was the last NFL owner to integrate his team, not doing so until 1962.
The team will also rename the lower bowl of FedEx Field in honor of Mitchell, which was previously named after Marshall.
“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, who died in April, was a Hall of Fame running who was traded to the Redskins in December 1961 from the Cleveland Browns. Marshall had acquired Mitchell after facing pressure from the federal government, which threatened to take away lease to the new D.C. stadium (built on federally owned land) unless the team integrated. The Redskins traded the rights of No. 1 overall pick Ernie Davis, a black running back who refused to play for Marshall, in exchange for Mitchell.
As a flanker, Mitchell led the league in receiving yards in 1962 and 1963. He made the Pro Bowl four times, three with Washington. After retirement, Mitchell spent years in the Redskins’ front office as an executive. He was enshrined to the Hall of Fame in 1983.
Mitchell joins Sammy Baugh as the only other Redskin to have his jersey retired.
“This honor would have meant the world to him,” said Terri Mitchell, Mitchell’s daughter. “He would have been thrilled, appreciative and humbled. He felt that the retiring of a jersey is the ultimate recognition of an athlete. My father was a great family man who would have embraced this well-deserved recognition of his many accomplishments.”
Mitchell played 11 season in the NFL, seven with Washington. He retired in 1969.
The Redskins said they will officially honor Mitchell’s legacy at a home game sometime in the future.
A well deserved honor for one of the true icons of our game and a strong representative of our Organization. Thank you for leading the way Bobby Mitchell #49 https://t.co/len0Tc2gzg— Ron Rivera (@RiverboatRonHC) June 20, 2020
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