With the Washington Redskins name controversy commanding the spotlight, and the recent events involving Donald Sterling, I keep thinking about an incident George Taliaferro shared with me in The Game before the Money. Taliaferro played seven positions throughout his NFL career, earning Pro Bowl honors three times. He became the first African American drafted by an NFL team when the Chicago Bears drafted him in 1949.
Although the book focuses on NFL players’ passion for the game before free agency and multi-million dollar contracts, Taliaferro also recalled a game in 1953, when his Colts battled Washington:
“I stood in the end zone at the stadium in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1953, when I was a member of the Baltimore Colts. George Preston Marshall, the owner of the Washington Redskins, was standing maybe ten feet behind me. I was the last Colt to be introduced on the offense. George Preston Marshall shouted, ‘Niggers should never be allowed to do anything but push wheelbarrows!’”
It’s compelling to ponder what might have happened if Marshall said those words today, and how that would have impacted the movement to change the team’s name.