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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Racist Redskins Owner Did Not Listen To His Wife, And Now He Is In Hell

Illustration for article titled Racist Redskins Owner Did Not Listen To His Wife, And Now He Is In Hell

Tomorrow's Washington Post magazine unearths some letters from the Redskins archives to convey "the innocence of this long ago era" when a racist named George Preston Marshall married an actress (pictured) who convinced him to move his football team south.

Illustration for article titled Racist Redskins Owner Did Not Listen To His Wife, And Now He Is In Hell

Her name was Corinne Griffith and her looks and references to Muleshoe and pigeons sort of call to mind Zooey Deschanel, or maybe that's just us:

The way Corinne Griffith tells it in her 1947 book "My Life With the Redskins," it was her idea to move the team to Washington. She relates the story of dining with her friend Damon Runyon, sportswriter and author of "Guys and Dolls," his wife, Patrice, and Marshall at a restaurant in New York in the fall of 1936, and explaining why the team would be welcomed in Washington: "You see, Damon, there are so many displaced citizens in Washington, from places such as Muleshoe, Texas; Ekalaka, Montana; and even Beverly Hills, California. Most of these are alone in Washington with nothing to do on Sunday afternoon other than sit in parks and feed the squirrels and pigeons. I am convinced that if the team should move to Washington, it would give these same an opportunity to expend some of their surplus energy."


You have to remember, this was before digital video recording technology required Beltway area residents to spend Sunday afternoons watching the Sunday morning political talk shows they hadn't watched on Sunday morning. Also it was probably before the Beltway.

Anyway Marshall was a shrewd businessman who did not even pay his team for the hundreds of exhibition games he hauled them around playing with such teams as the "Akron Awnings." (Funny how we kept around such names as Redskins and Indians and bullets and stuff when there were already perfectly inoffensive names people had thought of like Akron Awnings.)

But Marshall had a big weakness that eventually got the best of him: he was a huge crazy racist! Eventually his longtime commentator and 25% owner of the franchise Harry Wismer started complaining about how his refusal to draft black players was hurting his investment in the team. Then Wismer made off with his wife, he suspected! She wrote him:

Dear George,

... I have always kept myself unspotted from any gossip because I have led as clean a life of anyone leading, and I am certain that you, above all people, know just how decent I am. So, don't say again I can do "anything with Wismer I see fit". I am not interested in Harry and Harry is not interested in me.

You are always letting your hate of Wismer ruin you. Hate always does. But Heaven knows there is no reason to hate me. When you insisted I marry you, I married you. When you insisted for years on a divorce, I divorced you. What more can you ask? And may I repeat, please get someone around you whose thinking is correct. With your ability and my right thinking you became a great success. Now you are surrounded with such degenerate, unprogressive thoughts that you are fast becoming a failure. Come on now, get your good thinking cap on and do the things you are capable of doing — now!

And don't ever again accuse me of chasing with Wismer. To begin with I don't "chase". I am the old-fashioned type that believes in letting men chase me. Remember?


Somehow I was not surprised to learn at the end that this story was co-authored by a husband-wife writing team. But not before I learned this charming tidbit about the team's old policy about smoking while on the road:


The club has strict rules about smoking in or around the dressing room or practice field ...

Ash-trays are plentiful in your rooms. Be sure to use them ... not the floor. Remember: It's somebody's mother or wife who has to clean up.


Awww, today it would just be "some illegal"!

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