Reports out of Washington, D.C., say Zema Williams, the most racist mascot in all of sports but otherwise a real nice guy, is dead.
For the last four decades, Williams has spent his fall Sundays and occasional Monday nights as Chief Zee, the unofficial mascot of the Washington Redskins. He told me several years ago that he first wore the faux indian outfit in public when a family friend gave him tickets to a nationally televised game against the hated Dallas Cowboys, and he wanted to wear something special. The TV cameras showed him throughout the game, including getting in a fake scrum with a Cowboys fan, and he liked the publicity. He’s been dressing up for Skins contests, and seemingly oblivious to how grotesque and insensitive his game-day get-up really is, ever since.
The lowlight of Zee’s run came in Philadelphia in 1983, when he was hospitalized after Washington beat the crap out of the Eagles and Philly fans beat the crap out of him. He had his headdress ripped off early, and on his walk to the parking lot, Zee told me, a group of men in Eagles colors, including two fans who’d assaulted him inside the stadium, jumped out of a van and pummeled him into unconsciousness.
“They treated me like chopped meat,” Zee said. “They ripped off my costume, smashed my eye socket so my eyeball was just hanging out, snapped my leg like it was a twig, and yelled, ‘You won’t be jumping up and down in this stadium anymore!’ They left me lying in my underclothes.”
Nobody was arrested for the beating. Chief Zee went to games in a wheelchair or on crutches for the rest of the season. Williams sued the Veterans Stadium security firms and won a reported $14,250 judgement. He went back to Philly the next year for the Skins road game after an invite from Eagles officials. It didn’t go well.
“They gave me the VIP treatment: drove me to the game and put me in the box seats,” Williams told me. “But this senior-citizen lady comes up to me and says, ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve coming up here! We mugged the guy who dressed like that last year!’ And then she threw her drink in my face. I can still smell that drink.”
He told me he left at halftime and never went to an Eagles road game again. Wherever Chief Zee is now, at least it ain’t Philadelphia.