The statue of former Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who was forced to integrate his franchise in the early 1960s, was removed from outside of RFK Stadium on Friday morning.
Events DC, which is in charge of RFK Stadium, removed the statue.
Max Brown, the chairman of the Events DC board of directors, and Greg O'Dell, the president and CEO, released a joint statement explaining the removal.
"This symbol of a person who didn't believe all men and women were created equal and who actually worked against integration is counter to all that we as people, a city, and nation represent," the statement read. "We believe that injustice and inequality of all forms is reprehensible and we are firmly committed to confronting unequal treatment and working together toward healing our city and country."
They also called the removal of the statue an "overdue step on the road to lasting equality and justice."
"We recognize that we can do better and act now," they said. "We've heard from many of our stakeholders in the community, and we thank you. Allowing the memorial to remain on the RFK Campus goes against Events DC's values of inclusion and equality and is a disturbing symbol to many in the city we serve."
The removal occurred on Juneteenth, which observes the effective end of slavery in the United States. It also follows several weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd.
Marshall owned the franchise from its inception in 1932 until his death in 1969. The team began in Boston as the Braves in 1932 and was renamed the Redskins a year later when it shared Fenway Park with the Red Sox. Marshall moved the franchise to his hometown of Washington, D.C., in 1937.
Before and after. George Preston Marshall has left RFK and Hilleast. pic.twitter.com/nCp2GF7iHA— Denise Rucker Krepp (@kdrkrepp) June 19, 2020
But Marshall resisted efforts and pressure to integrate his roster, becoming the last NFL owner to do so in 1962. Marshall once said he would sign African American players when the Harlem Globetrotters signed white players. The Redskins were the southernmost franchise, and Marshall had their marching band play "Dixie" on the field for 23 years. The NAACP protested against Marshall at a meeting of league owners in 1957 and once picketed outside his home.
In the spring of 1961, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall started to apply pressure on Marshall to integrate his roster. Because the Redskins were going to begin play at D.C. Stadium on federally owned land that fall, Udall told Marshall that a 30-year lease would be revoked unless he added a black player. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle later got involved in trying to persuade Marshall to relent. That December, Marshall drafted black running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis with the first pick.
However, it was later learned that Marshall had traded the selection to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for running back/wide receiver Bobby Mitchell, who became Washington's first black player in 1962.
D.C. Stadium was later renamed RFK Stadium; the Redskins moved to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, in 1997.
Marshall was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. He is also part of the Redskins' Ring of Fame, and his name is adorned, along with other members' names, inside the stadium. A section of seating at FedEx Field is named after Marshall. He is also included on their history wall, which is outside the locker room at their practice facility.
"Once elected, nothing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's bylaws allows for the removal of a Hall member," the institution said in a statement.
Marshall was considered an innovative owner in other matters, proposing along with Chicago Bears owner George Halas that forward passing be allowed anywhere beyond the line of scrimmage. Marshall also embraced television in the 1950s, helping build the Redskins' brand in the South far beyond Washington.
The franchise's nickname remains a point of controversy, with renewed pressure for it to be changed. The city would like the Redskins to build a new stadium in the District, but Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she wants the team to change its name.
"It's an obstacle for us locally, but it's also an obstacle for the federal government who leases the land to us," Bowser told Team 980 in a recent radio interview.
The Redskins did not comment on the removal of Marshall's statue, citing the fact that RFK is no longer under their control. Owner Dan Snyder gave all his employees the day off Friday in honor of Juneteenth.