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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: The Washington Commanders

In 1932, the Washington Commanders (originally as Boston Braves) played the franchise's debut NFL game, losing 14-0 to Brooklyn Dodgers at Braves Field. Boston was awarded an NFL franchise in 1932, taking the place of the temporary traveling Cleveland Indians, who were operating under the franchise of the Newark Tornadoes, after the Tornadoes left the league after the 1930 season and sold its franchise rights back to the NFL.

Phew! Did you catch all that?

The new football team took the same name as their landlords, the Boston Braves, one of the two local baseball teams. After a losing season, most of the team's ownership dropped out, leaving George Preston Marshall as the team's sole owner. He moved the team to Fenway Park (yeup) the following year and changed the name to the "Redskins" to avoid confusion with the "baseball" Braves.

In 1936, the Redskins went 7 - 5, winning the Eastern Division Championship. However, when less than 5,000 fans attended their final home game, Marshall was so upset that he gave up home field advantage, playing the NFL Championship at the Polo Grounds in NY. The Redskins lost to the Green Bay Packers, 21 - 6 and the following year, he moved the team to DC, sharing Griffin Stadium with the Washington Senators (baseball).

In 1950, the team announced that American Oil Company would televise all of the Redskins games, making Washington the first NFL team to have an entire season of televised games.

In 1961, the Redskins moved into their new stadium, D.C. Stadium (changed to RFK Memorial Stadium in 1969). Despite pressure from many in the press and government, Marshall refused to integrate the team, earning the accusation that he wanted the team's colors to remain "burgundy, gold and Caucasian." He was continually chided, one such comment coming from a Post writer who noted that "Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday."

Finally, given that their stadium was owned by the US Department of the Interior, and under the threat of civil rights legal action by the Kennedy administration, the Redskins became the final pro football franchise to integrate, in 1962, their second season in the stadium.

Marshall died in 1969 and majority ownership went to Jack Kent Cooke, who lived in Los Angeles (and owned the LA Lakers). Passing in 1997, his son was unable to raise the funds to purchase the Redskins, so in 1999, Daniel Snyder gained unanimous approval from league owners to purchase the franchise for $800 million, at the time, the most expensive price for a major sports team.

In July 2020, Washington announced that it would conduct a review of the team's controversial name after receiving pressure from other teams and league sponsors. They retired the "Redskins" name and logo and identified itself as the Washington Football Team until rebranding as the Commanders for the 2022 season, introducing a new logo and uniforms.


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