Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins Just Brings Out The Hate In Me
by Michael Burke
Let’s make this universally clear to everyone who reads this. I am a Dallas Cowboys fan first and foremost. I am a football fan above all. I respect the game, its History, and how hard it is to actually become a great team. It was my dream to play in the NFL, and of course I did dream of that star on the side of my hat more than any other dream. I wanted to play in the NFL badly, but there is one exception to this. I would not, under any circumstance play for the Washington Redskins. Did you know that the Redskins are changing their mascot name to the Possums? They play dead at home and get killed on the road.
Welcome to Redskins Week. I would have played for them as the Washington Possums. It is the mascot name Redskins that is my objection and always has been. I had a step father who was a full blooded Apache from the Chiricahua tribe. He made it very clear to me that the word is a slur. The Dictionaries describe it as such, or a pejorative, which means insult. We can pretend that it never was meant as anything but a tribute but that is all it is. The thing that I always ask is this, if the mascot name never existed in NFL History and we were going to have an expansion franchise in the Nation’s Capital, of all places, would that name be accepted today? If your answer is no, then you understand my disgust with the word.
I have challenged many Redskins fans in my life to come with me to some of the native American reservations in Arizona and told them to walk up to a group and call them that name. Why not if it isn’t offensive as the Redskins and their fans claim? Not a single one of them has ever taken me up on that challenge. I don’t believe any ever will. Yes, I openly admit the word has become blunted to the insult due to the football team. I can’t say that is enough. Clearly there are Native Americans who think it is disparaging to them. I think we ought to look at the History to determine if the word was meant as a tribute or not.
The Washington Redskins began as the Boston Football Braves in 1932. In the early days of the NFL teams used the same team name as the more popular and established baseball teams, and at one time the Braves were located in Boston. So too were the Redskins originally, as the Braves first. They were owned by a man named George Preston Marshall. In 1933 they moved across town to play at Fenway Park. They could have changed their name to the Boston Football Red Sox. Instead they became the Boston Redskins.
The legend behind this particular name is that it was supposedly done in honor of their Head Coach at the time, William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz. He was a Native American Indian from the Sioux Nation. Dietz actually was a teammate of Jim Thorpe and played football under Pop Warner. So his football pedigree has never been in question. I have always questioned whether the name Redskins was ever truly meant to honor Lone Star Dietz. You see, he was fired after only two seasons as their Head Coach and his record was 11-11-2 in those 2 seasons. In 1937 the Redskins left Boston and became the Washington Redskins.
The other reason to question whether G.P. Marshall chose that mascot as an honor to Dietz is because of this irrefutable fact, George Preston Marshall was the biggest racist ever to be involved in the NFL. Marshall’s target of racism however was mainly focused on Blacks. Marshall was instrumental in talking other NFL owners in to following baseball’s lead and instituting a color barrier in the NFL. From 1933 to 1945 the NFL excluded Black players. In 1946 they began to integrate. All except one team, the Washington Redskins. In fact the Redskins would not integrate until 1962 and that was only after threats of sanctions by the Kennedy Administration.
In 1962, with his back up against the wall, Marshall used his 1st round Draft pick to select Syracuse RB, Ernie Davis, the very first African American Heisman Trophy Winner. There is a recent movie about Davis called “The Express.” Ernie Davis refused to play for the Redskins. When informed he had been drafted by them he reportedly said, “I won’t play for that racist S.O.B.” Sadly, Ernie Davis never played in the NFL at all. He was diagnosed with Leukemia and passed away. His rights were traded to the Cleveland Browns for Bobby Mitchell. Mitchell was the first African American to ever play for the Washington Redskins.
I want to stop here and admire for a minute the courage of Ernie Davis. Not just in facing leukemia, but in standing up to racism. It was the 1960’s and the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. We were trying to turn the corner in this country towards a better tolerance for each other and our differences. I find his stance to be noble, and in truth I wish more African American players vocally took that stance since he did it. Understand something, I have absolutely nothing against players of any color who have played for the Redskins. I simply wish more of them were openly against what is clearly a racist mascot name. That might actually apply the pressure needed to change it. We’ve run out of Ernie Davis’s and people who know and respect History as he did. Maybe he would have played for them post 1962 once they did finally integrate, but I like hoping he wouldn’t have.
For all of his racist faults, G. P. Marshall was also a football innovator and it landed him in the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Football on television is largely because of him and he was the impetus behind changing rules for the forward pass. He was a big believer in his team’s fans enjoying the game atmosphere and he was the first team to have a fight song, “Hail to the Redskins,” and many other football firsts. His halftime extravaganzas featured scantily clad women in Indian garb who were called princesses, marching bands, and many other extravagant shows.
It is that fight song that was part of the strategy that landed an NFL team in Dallas, Texas. Clint Murchison knew that G.P. Marshall was his biggest roadblock to landing an NFL team. Marshall’s Redskins were the only team in the entire southern United States and he was fiercely protective of what he saw as his territory. When the NFL awarded a team to Baltimore in 1953, Marshall was not happy. He had a huge following in the southern states due to a couple of reasons.
Chief among these reasons was the Redskins TV Network, the first of it’s kind and it had a huge market. He also understood the racism of the South at the time, being a racist himself. The original words to his fight song were in fact a tribute to southern racism.
Hail to the Redskins!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old Dixie!
Run or pass and score — we want a lot more!
Scalp ’em, swamp ’em — We will take ’em big score
Read ’em, weep ’em, touchdown – we want heap more
Fight on, Fight on — ‘Till you have won
Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!
Note the line, “fight for old Dixie,” a clear reference to the South’s participation in the Civil War and the fight to keep slavery. Marshall was no dummy. The song had been composed by Barney Breeskin and the words were penned by Marshall’s wife, Corinne Griffith. She was an Academy Award nominated actress for her role in “The Divine Lady.” Griffith herself was exactly that. Widely viewed as the most beautiful actress of the silent film era she was never featured when films moved to sound because of her nasal voice.
Corinne Griffith went on to become a successful author. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At the time Clint Murchison was trying to secure an NFL team Corinne Griffith and Marshall were in the throes of a divorce. Murchison bought the rights to “Hail to the Redskins” for $2500.00. He then called Marshall and asked him if they were going to play the song at the next game. When assured that they were Murchison informed Marshall that he owned the song. He wanted his yes vote for NFL expansion. Marshall loved the fight song and knew he was boxed in.
Murchison didn’t rely only on the fight song. He also allegedly sent a $25,000 bribe to Senator Estes Kefauver of the anti-Monopoly Senate commission for the purpose of investigating the Redskins as a TV monopoly in the South. The commission did find them to be a monopoly, and Marshall was forced drop his stranglehold from TV revenues. He tried in vain to push the Cowboys inclusion into the NFL until 1961, citing the already completed 1960 NFL Draft as a reason to wait one more year.
Murchison knew that Lamar Hunt had created the AFL and was putting the Dallas Texans in the Cotton Bowl. He argued that a one year head start by the AFL would ruin his chances of success, I am sure GP Marshall wanted the AFL to get that head start for the same reasons Murchison wanted to avoid it, and thus the Dallas Cowboys are the only team ever to be built in year one without the aid of the NFL Draft. In those days the Draft was held in late November, or early December of the ongoing season. So the 1960 NFL Draft was held in late 1959.
In 1960 the Cowboys were granted an NFL franchise for the cost of $600,000.00. Murchison joked that his true costs were $627,500.00 for the rights to the fight song and the fee paid to Senator Kefauver. In actuality the costs were much more because he also had the salaries of Tex Schramm, Tom Landry and others to take into account and the vote to allow the Cowboys to play took an entire week because they needed to name a new NFL Commissioner after the late 1959 untimely death of Bert Bell, founder of the Eagles. Murchison loved jostling Marshall. He was allegedly behind a caper in December 1961 to release 75 white chickens and 1 black chicken onto the field at DC Stadium, later called RFK Stadium. The obvious message of the gag was to highlight the Redskins being forced to select a Black player in the 1961 NFL Draft. The plot was foiled by an attentive security guard. Murchison’s lead henchman, Bob Thompson, was undaunted by being caught and he promised there would be chickens at DC Stadium in 1962.
At halftime of the game against the Cowboys, four banners were unfurled in the endzones and 50 yard lines that said “chickens.” Two acrobats in chicken costumes ran onto the field and tossed colored eggs. One was caught quickly, but the other eluded security. Out of his bag he also produced a live chicken and he turned it loose on the field. Now security was not only trying to catch the acrobat, they were also trying to catch the live chicken. The acrobat escaped into the crowd. Dallas won the game 38-10, and the last line in the box score of the Dallas Morning News, paid to be there by Murchison, told the best story of all. “Attendance — 49,888 (and one chicken).” As a tribute to Murchison I always eat chicken when the Cowboys face the Redskins.
All of these things contributed to there being a huge rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins. The fierceness of the games between the two teams and the passionate hatred of the Cowboys by Redskins Head Coach George Allen really pushed the rivalry into the realms of legendary. Despite a very lopsided head to head record, the rivalry is considered by most football Historians to be the biggest in the NFL. The Cowboys lead the all time series 63-40-2. They are 36-14-2 in Dallas for the series. They are 26-26 in Washington, DC and 9-7 at Fed Ex Field.The Cowboys own 16 season sweeps of the head to head series. Those came in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2009, and 2011. If the Cowboys win this weekend they will make it 17 sweeps. The Redskins own 5 season sweeps of the head to head series. 1984, 1987, 1995, 2005 and last year in 2012.
The Redskins have 3 Super Bowl Championships, Super Bowls XVII, XXII, and XXVI. They also won the NFL Championship in 1937 and 1942. The Cowboys and Redskins have also faced each other twice in the post season. 1972 and 1982. Both games were NFC Championship games played in Washington, DC and the heavily favored Redskins won both games. In 1969, George Preston Marshall died. The team was sold by the stockbrokers to Edward Bennett Williams. In 1981 Williams sold the team to Jack Kent Cooke. Cooke would own the team up until his death in 1997. His son John, negotiated the sale of the Redskins to current owner, Little Danny Snyder.