The Washington Redskins will retire the number 49 worn by their first African American player in their history, Bobby Mitchell, who died earlier this year. Bobby’s number 49 is the second Redskins player in franchise history to have his jersey number retired, in their 88-year history joining Sammy Baugh’s number 33.
They were the last NFL team to integrate, and team owner George Preston Marshall who owned the franchise from the time of their inception in 1932 in Boston until his death in 1969, only did so after threats from the US government to take away the use of District of Columbia Stadium for games. Bobby Mitchell was the first black player for the Redskins, and they will be changing the honorary name of the lower FedEx Field seating level from George Preston Marshall to Bobby Mitchell.
Bobby Mitchell, alongside Leroy Jackson, was traded to the Cleveland Browns for Ernie Davis by the Redskins. He went on to play seven seasons for Washington, finishing his career there. Bobby played 98 games and 393 receptions for 6492 yards and 49 TDs and had 90 carries for 438 yards and 2 TDs. Also, he had over 1200 yards combined between kickoff and punt returns and added another 2 TDs to his total on special teams with the Redskins.
Mitchell broke the Redskins color barrier, becoming the first Black man to suit the Burgundy and Gold in 1962. When he retired in 1968, his 14078 all-purpose yards were the second-most in NFL history.
After his playing career was over, he joined the front office and spent 41 seasons with the organization. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. Mitchell was proud of what he accomplished in the NFL and wanted to be known for more than just breaking a color barrier in Washington.
Bobby wasn’t done with Washington after retiring as a player, he stayed on with the team and became a pro scout at the request of Head Coach Vince Lombardi. He eventually became the team’s assistant general manager. He never got the full general manager title he desired with the team but stared with the organization until retiring in 2003.
Only one player had worn Bobby’s number since he retired after the 1968 season-tight end Leonard Stephens in 2002. Bobby said after that season, he was hurt that the team had re-issued his number, though then-coach Steve Spurrier said it was merely an oversight and never given to another player.
Bobby Mitchell is considered to be more than an exceptional football player and athlete. He excelled in the field, in the front office, and most importantly in his community, where he had a tremendous impact on the lives of so many through his charitable efforts. Mitchell passed away earlier this year in April.
The announcement to retire Mitchell’s jersey comes a day following the celebration of Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery in 1865. The number 49 jersey will be officially retired at a future home game.
Rachel Lott is a Reporter for Chroniclex After graduating from Cuyahoga Community College, Rachel got an internship at USA Evening and worked as a Reporter and Producer. Rachel has also worked as a Reporter for WKYC TV and Fox News Channel. Rachel Covers International Developments.