BURGUNDY, GOLD & CAUCASIAN: the real history about the Redskins’ name


By Scott A. Rowan

Maybe the American flag should be replaced with the controversial logo of the Washington Redskins.

After all, no logo and no professional sports team, with the exception of the Atlanta Braves (a sister organization to the Redskins regarding their name history), has a sorted heritage of political corruption and greed by the wealthy that embodies the real American experience.

If we did create a flag based on the history of the Redskins’ moniker, the team’s logo would have to be small enough to leave room for the cabal of powerful and elite individuals who were connected to its origin: federal judges, known gangsters, and elected politicians who were in actuality “honest graft” criminals, not to mention the the ownership groups of the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants and one of the nation’s most famous actresses.

Carefully-crafted marketing and misinformation have spawned many variations of the origin of the Redskins name. The detailed story is as American as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: an ambitious young businessman consorts with underworld figures of massive influence and in so doing creates a life of great wealth that is doomed to also cause great pain.

The Marshall Plan

Football had little if anything to do with the origin of the Washington Redskins’ name.

It was a product. A widget. Something to sell.

George Preston Marshall

The team owner had experience in professional basketball, but none in pro football. However, he knew how to sell. He just needed a popular product. A loud mouth who always attracted attention with his quick quips that insulted enemies with such charm that his verbal daggers were often met with chuckles, at least initially. The salesman, a proud son of the south, knew that political clout assured business success. Outside of the Oval Office, the largest congregation of political power in the country was in New York City’s Tammany Hall where underworld figures, local business leaders, and politicians mixed daily. The businessman who had the support of politicians in both Washington D.C. and New York City would have unmatched influence. George Preston Marshall was determined to be that businessman.

Before he could become a success in football, Marshall had to ingratiate himself to the established powerful (and corrupt) leaders in professional baseball and, thus, by extension, Tammany Hall.

Tammany Hall: Elected Criminals & Baseball

Tammany Hall & 14th St. West, New York City, 1914.

It may seem odd to discuss baseball’s long history with underworld figures in order to understand the origin of the Redskins’ name, but when you shake hands with the devil you wind up with many shady partners.

Every visual aspect of the Redskins – team colors, secondary graphics like arrows, and, of course, the team logo – began with Tammany Hall, one of the most corrupt political machines in American history. Founded in 1788 to help immigrants transition into their new lives in the United States, the Society of St. Tammany or Columbian Order was a fraternity created to help the working immigrants: mostly Irish, Italian, and German. The organization took its name from a legendary meeting in 1682 between American settlers and a Native American chief of the Lenni-Lenape Tribe in the Deleware Valley named Tamenand, or Tammany. According to legend, Chief Tamanend gave William Penn and other settlers such a warm greeting upon their arrival in the New World that even John Adams wrote about him to his wife, Abigail.

From St. Tammany parish in Louisiana to public holidays celebrated in his name throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania, Chief Tamanend’s name has lived long after his death around 1700 (different accounts claim he died in 1698 and others in 1701).

Chief Tamanend

Decades later, when William Mooney and others founded the Society of St. Tammany or Columbian Order, they decided to use Native American symbols for their fraternal club.

“Mooney and the society’s founders adopted symbols and language from Native Americans who, in their imagination, were the true repositories of equality and egalitarianism,” explained Terry Golway, a Tammany Hall expert. “The Tammany Society’s “grand sachem” presided over a council of lesser elders, called “sachems,” while rank-and-file members were known as “braves.” The society’s headquarters was known informally as “the Wigmam,” a reference that would continue into the twentieth century. … The general committee became better known by its meeting place, Tammany Hall.” (1)

By the mid-1800s, Irish immigrants took control of Tammany Hall and dropped the “or Columbian Order” at the end of the organization’s name that honored Christopher Columbus, further narrowing the groups concerns to predominantly Irish ones. By 1902 there was no denying the pro-Irish bent of Tammany Hall when Charlie Murphy took over. Known to most as Boss Murphy, the Tammany Hall grand sachem had two men he trusted as “bagmen” to collect his bribes and kickbacks from businesses and citizens: his younger brother, John, and James Gaffney.

Boxing, Boston & New York

Charlie “Boss” Murphy

Gaffney and the Murphy brothers changed the course of American sports while they were busy bending the law. Growing up in the Gas House District (today it would be roughly where the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood exists), Gaffney and the Murphys learned how to profit from sports, specifically underground boxing. In the 1890s, boxing matches were the most popular form of entertainment in immigrant communities because they could be conducted in a baseball or alley and didn’t need a race track or ballfield. Before the end of the century, the Horton Act was passed and made New York the only state that allowed legalized boxing. That was not good for underground fight clubs run by Tammany Hall “braves” like Gaffney.

Due to strong Tammany Hall lobbying, the New York legislature in Albany replaced the Horton Act with the Lewis Law in August 1900. The Lewis Law outlawed boxing matches except for three-round “exhibitions” that were to be fought in private clubs. It just so happened that one of Tammany Hall’s top men owned such a private club. The National Sporting Club boasted approximately 300 members and was owned by Gaffney and partner Frank Farrell.

Running the private boxing club was just one of the vices that made Farrell rich enough to become half the ownership group (with Bill Devery) of the New York Highlanders when the team was admitted into the American League in 1903. After 10 years as the Highlanders, the organization changed their named to the New York Yankees for the 1913 season. A former sports bookie who owned racing horse, saloons, and casinos, Farrell had profited handsomely from Tammany Hall’s connections the same way that Gaffney did.

James “Big Jim” Gaffney

The two, however, had a rift that destroyed their friendship. The source of enmity between Gaffney and Farrell has never been determined, but the permanent fracturing of their friendship – Tammany Hall connections or not – is undeniable. In fact, it was this feud between two of New York City’s top underworld figures that sparked the start of the infamous rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston baseball teams.

In 1912, Gaffney, one of Tammany Hall’s loyal “braves,” bought the Boston National League team that could never settle on a name. Joining the NL in 1876 as the Boston Red Stockings, they changed their name to Beaneaters, Doves, and, for the 1911 season, they were the Rustlers. But beginning in 1912, the team name would forever become the Boston Braves, whose name, logo, and images were all discreet signs of allegiance to Tammany Hall in New York that were hidden in plain sight.

Gaffney’s partner was John Montgomery Ward, a baseball star who was the sworn enemy of American League president Ban Johnson after Ward’s failed attempt to launch the Player’s League. Ward, a Hall of Fame player-manager, earned a law degree from Columbia University and proceeded to represent players in lawsuits against baseball organizations for fair treatment, forever etching his name in the granite wall of enmity in Johnson’s mind. When the National League sought a replacement for league president Harry Pulliam, who shot himself due to the stress of the job, Ward was considered for the job until Johnson said that he would refuse to recognize Ward as his NL equal. (2)

John Montgomery Ward

Ward and Gaffney teamed together to get the best of their AL rivals – Ban Johnson and Frank Farrell, respectively – by buying the NL Boston team and turning the moribund organization into a gem in baseball’s crown. During the Gaffney-Ward ownership, the Braves reached benchmark moments in the organization’s history, including the 1914 Miracle Braves championship season, which led to the erection of a brand new ballpark.

On August 18, 1915, Braves Field was unveiled to the world. Gaffney’s ballpark, built in just six months and delivered two weeks ahead of schedule, was an immediate success. (3) Built entirely of steel and concrete, Braves Field sat 40,000 fans safely and comfortably. Raves poured in from all corners of the sports world, calling Braves Field “ideal” and the “greatest monument that has ever been raised in honor of the National Game.” (4)

Enter: football

The National Football League began in 1920 but was named the American Professional Football Association. In 1922, the AFPA rebranded itself as the NFL.

In 1937, laundry tycoon George Preston Marshall convinced two wealthy friends to purchase the NFL rights for Boston. (5) Marshall’s group was the second NFL team to try and make football work at Braves Field. It was also the second team to fail.

The Boston Bulldogs, the previous professional football team in Boston, lasted for just one season, going 4-4-2 in 1929 while playing games at the Braves Field. Support from Boston sports fans was lukewarm at best in 1929. The Bulldogs had the second-worst home attendance numbers in the 12-team league with just 8,800 fans attending five homes games. Only 800 people witnessed the best game in the short-lived history of the organization when the Bulldogs defeated the Dayton Triangles 41-0. (6)

George “Papa Bear” Halas

The Boston Bulldogs never fielded a team again.

But in 1932 football returned to Braves Field, only this time the NFL franchise was run by a flamboyant out-of-towner in Marshall, whose previous experience in professional basketball gave him many ideas about how to market and shape the future of professional football.

American Basketball League

The American Basketball League was created in 1925 by Marshall, Chicago Bears coach/owner George Halas, and Joseph Carr, the NFL’s league president. The three executives ran the ABL as the first truly professional basketball league in the country with teams located in major cities and a rulebook that set many rules and standards that govern the game today. The ABL lasted only six seasons and shut down operations after the 1930-1931 campaign. (A subsequent American Basketball League played from 1933-1953, but was located only in New York and  the Northeast.)

Always looking for creative promotional ideas, Marshall considered a professional basketball team a good way to promote his growing laundry business. In 1918, Marshall inherited the family business from his father, T. Hill Marshall: Palace Laundry, a string of laundries in the Washington area. With a keen eye on marketing – every store was sparkling white to emphasize cleanliness and employees were forbidden to talk politics with customers for fear of accidentally saying something offensive – Marshall quickly turned his father’s small business into Washington’s largest chain of laundries with 54 locations. (7)

Marshall named his ABL team the Washington Palace Five, dressed them in the same blue and color combination as Palace Landry and they finished second in the inaugural season, but due to poor attendance the team only lasted another full season. Midway through the 1927-1928 season the Washington Palace Club (also called the Laundrymen, Palacians or Washington Palace Five) closed shop with Marshall selling the team in January 1928 and being rebranded the Brooklyn Visitations. (8)

The Washington Palace Club posing outside of a Washington Palace location.

The difficulty of launching a new team in a market stuck with Marshall. So, too, did the financial need to secure a stable attendance base. Both of those lessons were major factors in the creation of the Washington Redskins.

NFL’s Boston Braves

In the years after his failed attempt at being a professional basketball team owner, George Preston Marshall still considered sports a good marketing tool for business.

There was undoubtedly some rivalry with his old friend, George Halas, who turned the fledgling Decatur Staleys into the successful Chicago Bears. If Halas could make football work in Chicago, why couldn’t Marshall do the same in Boston?

Marshall and his two partners submitted their application bid for the vacant Boston market. The NFL wasted no time approving Marshall for several reasons. Not only could the group easily afford to run a new franchise launched at the height of the Great Depression, but the NFL had received no bidders for the Boston market in 1931 and the NFL league president was Joe F. Carr, Marshall’s former partner in the American Basketball League and personal mentor. (9) To purposefully mix metaphors: Marshall’s football bid was a slam dunk. (Many reports over the decades claim that the Marshall consortium paid approximately $7,500 for the rights to Boston, but Marshall told Harold Weissman of the New York Mirror that his ownership group “got the NFL franchise absolutely free of charge” so long as they could afford to run the franchise. Partnering with Marshall, whose Palace Laundry chain of stores was solvent, were Vincent Bendix (an auto part supplier from South Bend, Indiana) and Larry Doyle (stockbroker in New York City). (10)

Comparison of the team colors for the 1932 Boston Braves and 1933 Boston Redskins.

Other than team colors – the 1932 Boston Braves were decked out in gleaming blue and gold, the colors of Palace Laundry – the organization needed a stadium, nickname, mascot, brand identity and more. After all, a football team had failed in the same city just three years earlier, so what could Marshall do to improve his team’s odds?

Marshall decided to get the attention of the established fanbase of the Boston Braves by insinuating his team into their world. He not only signed to play his team’s games at Braves Field for the inaugural 1932 season, but the football team would adopt the same mascot and Native American theme of the baseball Braves. The only difference was that the football Boston Braves played in blue and gold.

True to his devoutly racist sentiments, Marshall not only didn’t hide the fact that he was mimicking Native American culture to sell tickets, he went so far as to claim that his eventual refusal to sign any black football players (Washington was the last NFL to sign a black football player) was a result of his previous usage of Native American images purely to make money. Leave it to the smoothest talker in the room to defend his ardent insistence about not hiring any black football players as a way of showing contrition and guilt over his systematic employment of Native American imagery to brand an entertainment empire that catered exclusively to the white marketplace.

“I did exploit Indians in Boston,” Marshall explained in a 1957 interview with Sport Magazine. “I’ll admit that and the same kind of exploitation has taken place with the Negro in baseball. It’s wrong. Anyway, Negroes play against us, so what’s the difference?” (11)

(Author note: entire books have been written about Marshall’s well-established racist attitude and organizational management. Our story is about the gangster-related genesis of the Redskins’ name, not the segregation of the team’s roster. For more about that topic, I urge you look at “Showdown” by Thomas G. Smith, “Fight for Old D.C.” by Andrew O’Toole, and “Redskins” C. Richard King.)

James Gaffney, the Tammany Hall “brave” who created the Boston Braves, which begat the Washington Braves, never got a chance to see the NFL team bearing the secret Tammany Hall code in their name. Gaffney died on August 17, 1932, just six weeks before the debut of the NFL’s newest team, the Boston Braves.

When Marshall negotiated his deal with the Boston Braves in 1932, there is little chance that he dealt with Gaffney in any direct way. Gaffney sold his ownership in the Boston Braves in January 1916 for what he claimed was such a good price that he “could not, as a businessman, turn down.”

The Sporting News reported the price was estimated to be $500,000. (12)

“Although I no longer have a financial interest in the Braves,” Gaffney said at the time, “they will always be the ball club that will be nearest my heart – the team I shall always root for.” (13)

The sports fan would have noticed the headlines – The Boston National Club in New Hands – and may have fallen for Gaffney’s sentimental goodbye, but the business professional who read the rest of the story would have seen in the details why Gaffney was willing to walk away from the hottest team in pro sports at the time. (The aroma of the 1914 Miracle Braves season was still in the air after all.) Part of Gaffney’s deal was that he only sold the team, not Braves Field. Gaffney not only retained Braves Field, but secured a 33-year deal from the new owners, former Harvard football coach Percy D. Haughton and his investors. As he was accustomed to doing in business deals, Gaffney could have his proverbial cake and eat it too. He made money on the Boston Braves for next third of a century whether or not the team won or lost. Technically he didn’t lie to the public when he said he would “no longer have a financial interest in the Braves” but that wasn’t quite the full story considering he was still very much profiting from the organization. (Considering the Braves had only two seasons above .500 from 1917 to 1936 Gaffney’s decision to become landlord, not owner, of the Braves was even more financially prudent.)

Braves Become Redskins

The NFL’s Boston Braves lasted for just one season, their first. The 1932 season was the only season that Marshall’s team was the Braves.

There was a cost in aligning yourself with a Tammany Hall-run organization, Marshall discovered, even if “Big Jim” Gaffney was in his last months alive. Despite having the third highest attendance numbers in the NFL in 1932, the Boston Braves lost $46,000. (14) Even though Marshall had prepared his partners to lose at least $25,000 the first season, the real-world losses that were nearly twice the projections were too much for his partners, who pulled out as executives at season’s end.

Despite his partners bailing out of the team, Marshall pressed forward. Beginning with the 1933 season, Marshall was owner of the organization.

“[Marshall] could see that professional football’s best days were in front of it and not just as a profitable business,” football historian Chris Willis explained. “He saw the game had the potential as rivaling baseball as the number one sport in America. He would be quoted as saying, “baseball, that’s a common game. You have one everyday. Pro football’s the national pastime.”” (15)

Even though his team had the highest overall home attendance of any team located outside of New York, Marshall felt the 13,000 or so fans who turned out each home game were not enough. The Boston Braves football team drew 79,500 fans to six home games at Braves Field, but Marshall was convinced that a change of location would help increase attendance.

He didn’t need to move far: Fenway Park, the only other venue in Boston that could suffice, was just a mile away from Braves Field.

The new NFL owner was likely correct, a change would do the team well, but it likely had little do with increasing attendance. Marshall would have done well to pay attention to the failure of professional football just three years earlier at Braves Field, run by Tammany Hall-educated managers who knew how to monetize everything they could. The Braves’ 79,500 fans exceeded the Bears’ 73,500 and more than doubled Green Bay’s attendance of 32,500. Those organizations didn’t have a Tammany Hall “brave” as their landlord, however, which put a bind on Marshall he was quick to cut.

In addition to having the Braves as their landlord, Marshall found that the most obvious problem was a real one: fans were confused about having two Boston Braves in town, one baseball and one football.

A move could change all of the problems. Able to secure a better lease with the other baseball team in Boston, the Red Sox, Marshall decided to move the NFL’s Boston Braves to Fenway Park for the 1933 season. Not only would the team have a new home, the name and team color would change to subtly pander to the already-established Red Sox faithful. Gone was the blue and gold color scheme inherited from Palace Laundry. Marshall kept the gold, but swapped the blue for burgundy, a shade of red close, but not exactly the same, as the Red Sox.

While keeping the Native American imagery the Boston Braves created for Marshall’s team, the owner went with the term Redskins as the closest synonym he could find to “braves” that would echo the Red Sox. Early attempts to capitalize the first s and have the team called the RedSkins, failed, especially when programs were printed in ALL CAPS. So, RedSkins became Redskins for the 1933 season.

Everything to this point of the story is factual and verifiable given the decades of research that was combed to connect each the parts. However, everything from this point of the Reskins’ story gets clouded in outright lies that were spread from Day One by Marshall himself. On July 5, 1933, Marshall revealed the team’s name change to the world that included a lie which has caused decades of misinformation to spread about the origin of the name “Redskins.” Here is the Associated Press report in newspapers the following day, July 6:

George Marshall, owner of the Boston professional football team, today changed its name from Braves to Redskins.

“So much confusion has been caused by our football team wearing the same name as the Boston National League baseball club,” he said, “that a change appeared to be absolutely necessary. The fact that we have in our head coach, Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players has not, as may be suspected, to select the name Redskins.”

A masterful marketer, George Preston Marshall managed, in this brief quote, to both deny his team’s strong Native American-heritage as the reason for the name change, but be sure to claim and underscore his team’s alleged connection to real Native Americans as an honor.

The Dietz Controversy

William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz in Native American costume and everyday clothing.

All of it was built on a lie.

Actually, two lies.

Or maybe it was one big lie and one unspoken truth.

Maybe the big lie wasn’t a lie after all.

You’ll have to decide based on the few facts that can be confirmed.

The unspoken truth was that Marshall didn’t rename his team to honor his coach and players because he was simply looking to woo Red Sox fans to Redskins games by use of a similar name, color scheme, and iconography. It was the same tactic he tried a year earlier with the Braves.

However, the big lie that was told was that William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz was Native American. Then again, maybe Dietz – who was raised in a German household in Wisconsin – was actually an Indian after all. According to the United States government, Dietz was a white draft-dodger who, after two trials (the first ended in a hung jury) was found guilty of false declaration of being a Native American in order to avoid the World War I draft. In 1919, Dietz served 30 days in a country jail for false claims of being an Indian. (16)

“It is possible that Dietz was a white scam artist with a dark complexion,” sports historian Thomas G. Smith conceded.  “But it is likely that at least one of his biological parents was Indian. … But since he had no siblings or children of his own, there is no way to prove his ancestry short of a DNA test.”

In 2013, Washington team owner Daniel Snyder wrote a letter to the public that explained why he would not change the name, claiming that: “On that inaugural Redskins team, four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans. The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.”

There are plenty of historians who would argue with Snyder, claiming all of it is a lie, especially the part about Dietz being Native American. Not only was he forced to serve a 30-day jail sentence for fraud claiming to be a Native American, but his aunt told investigators that “[Dietz] was born here [Rice Lake, Wisconsin] and has no Indian blood in him.” (17)

“Phoney baloney,” historian Linda M. Waggoner said about Dietz’s unproven claims of being an Indian.

“A charade,” is what another historian called Dietz’s carefully-crafted lie. “A charade that allowed him to get an education, find a wife and start a career in coaching. If it had not been for the First World War, not one may have ever known, but Dietz claimed exception as a “non-citizen Indian.” (18)

Tom Benjey, however, disagrees with his fellow historians. Author of the Dietz biography Keep A-goin, Benjey cites the testimony given by Dietz family members that revealed many skeletons in the closet. During the government’s trial of Dietz, an 85-year-old woman named Leanna M. Barry – whom Dietz thought was his grandmother – revealed that her daughter, Leann Lewis – the woman Dietz thought was his mother – had given birth to a stillborn child in 1884. W.W. Dietz, the man married to Leann Lewis, told his wife that she could, in fact, have a baby to raise if she wanted because he had an affair with a local Oglala Sioux woman who recently had a child, too.

That Sioux child was Lone Star Dietz, who Leanana Barry claimed was raised by Leann Lewis as her own child. The child’s true ancestry was a “dead secret” that Leanna Barry said was “never, never to be revealed under any circumstances.”

Fear of Dietz’s father kept the two women from revealing the secret. A sheriff with an imposing physical stature, Dietz beat his wife until her face was swollen so many times that she was forced to stay away for weeks at a time to heal. (19)

There has always been doubt about this testimony, however.

“The account she gave was widely believed to have been scripted by her son,” Boston Globe journalist Kevin Paul Dupont explained in a Boston Globe story in 2013 that sought to put perspective on Snyder’s defense of the team name. (20)

Was Dietz actually a Sioux Indian raised by a German family?

Or was it just another lie in a layer cake of fraud?

“He’s been dead since 1964 and he’s still controversial,” Benjey said in 2013. “He is still probably the most controversial coach the game has ever had.” (21)

While Dietz’s Indian heritage will forever be in doubt, what is not in doubt is that he was teammates with Jim Thorpe at the famous Carlisle Indian Industrial High School, a national powerhouse at the turn of the century. Dietz went on to coach at Haskell Indian Nations University and brought four Indian players with him to the Redskins for the 1933 season. Rabbit Weller and David Ward played the 1933 season and barely saw any action: Weller had just 12 carries in seven games and Ward, a defensive end, appeared in only one game. Center Orien Crow played two seasons for the Redskins and Larry Johnson had the longest career of the four original Native American players to debut in 1933, lasting four seasons with the Redskins and New York Giants at linebacker and offensive lineman.

Off to D.C.

George Preston Marshall poses in front of his new Redskins offices in Washington D.C. that included a cigar store Indian.

Poor attendance for five straight seasons took its toll on George Preston Marshall, who moved the team to Washington in 1937.

By 1937, Lone Star Dietz was long gone; he lasted just two seasons. So, too, were the Native American players. In their place, Marshall erected a cigar store Indian in the Redskins offices on Ninth Street N.W. Native American artwork decorated the walls of the team’s offices and Marshall loudly proclaimed to the local press: that they “were here to stay and not just for 1937!” (22)

Indeed, the team has remained in Washington and so, too, has the controversy about its name. In their newspaper columns and media appearances, Shirley Povich and Morris Siegel were two of many journalists who championed the grievances of Native Americans and a growing number of sympathetic other groups who were insulted by the team’s nickname.

Marshall’s verbal battles with Povich and Siegel ended on August 9, 1969, when the team owner died. By then, Marshall had seen himself enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the Class of 1963 despite being the last NFL team to integrate its roster. More infamous than famous, Marshall’s legacy has been one of bigotry, not the innovation he brought to the game. Though he is credited with such staples of the sport as the forward pass, halftime shows and divisional playoffs that culminated in a seasonal championship game, Marshall is more widely remembered a racist owner who insulted millions. Though he refused to hire black football players until government intervention forced him to and decided to use a derogatory slang term for his team name, Marshall never had to fight the toughest legal battles his team ever faced.

The team had to register its name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1967, 1974, 1978 and 1990, and the federal agency approved the name each time. However, in 1992 things began to change. That year a group of Native Americans filed the paperwork with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to strip Washington of its team registration. Though it took seven years of legal fighting, the board agreed with the Native Americans and stripped legal protection of the team name.

Washington’s legal team appealed the decision and won, claiming that not enough evidence was produced to show the term was offensive.

By 2006, four more Native American groups had filed petitions with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

On July 8, 2015, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee upheld the 1999 ruling of  Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that found the team’s moniker was too offensive for federal protection. Citing the Lanham Act that forbids protections for any names that disparage or cause contempt, Lee said that he found a dictionary published in 1898 which defined the term as being “often contemptuous” meaning the government should never have allowed the registration of the name the first time in 1967. (23)

Like death and taxes, the only thing guaranteed about the Redskins name controversy is that it will not go away.

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen. (l to r)

“We are convinced that we will win on appeal as the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Washington Redskins for more than 80 years,” Redskins President Bruce Allen said in a statement after the legal decision.

Snyder has insisted he will not change the team name.

Washington’s latest appeal is still in process. Meanwhile, anyone is welcome to print and sell shirts with the Redskins logo on it because, if you look closely, you’ll notice there is no official Registered Trademark symbol on the brand, because it isn’t.

Forbes ranked the Washington Redskins at No. 11 on its 2017  list of the world’s most valuable sports franchises ($2.95 billion).

Rank, Team, Value, 1-Yr change (Sport)

  1. Dallas Cowboys, $4.2 billion, 5% (NFL)
  2. New York Yankees, $3.7 billion, 9% (MLB)
  3. Manchester United, $3.69 billion, 11% (Soccer)
  4. Barcelona, $3.64 billion, 2% (Soccer)
  5. Real Madrid, $3.58 billion, -2% (Soccer)
  6. New England Patriots, $3.4 billion, 6% (NFL)
  7. New York Knicks, $3.3 billion, 10% (NBA)
  8. New York Giants, $3.1 billion, 11% (NFL)
  9. San Francisco 49ers, $3 billion, 11% (NFL)
  10. Los Angeles Lakers, $3 billion, 11% (NBA) (24)



  1. Terry Golway, Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics (New York: Liveright, 2014) 5-6.
  2. “Ward’s Opportunity,” Sporting Life, Jan. 6, 1912, p 12.
  3. “Braves Field,” sabr.org. Last accessed Feb. 11, 2018. https://sabr.org/research/braves-field-imperfect-history-perfect-ballpark
  4.  “Boston’s New Ideal Ball Park,” Sporting Life, Aug. 28, 1915, p 6.
  5. “History by the Decades,” Redskins.com. Last accessed Feb. 11, 2018. http://www.redskins.com/team/history/history-by-decades.html
  6. ProFootballReference.com. Last accessed Feb. 11, 2018. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/ptb/1929.htm
  7. Andrew O’Toole, Fight for Old D.C.: George Preston Marshall, the Integration of the Washington Redskins, and Rise of the New NFL (Omaha, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2016) 24.
  8. Jeff Marcus, A Biographical Directory of Professional Basketball Coaches (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003) 207.
  9. James Quirk, Rodney D. Fort, Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992) 433.
  10. Thomas G. Smith, Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins (Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 2011) 5.
  11. O’Toole, Fight for Old D.C., 1.
  12. A.H.C. Mitchell, “The Boston National Club in New Hands,” Sporting News, Jan. 15, 1916.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Chris Willis, The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010) 299.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Richard Leiby, “The Legend of Lone Star Dietz: Redskins namesake, coach – and possible imposter?”, Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2013. Last accessed Feb. 11, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-legend-of-lone-star-dietz-redskins-namesake-coach–and-possible-imposter/2013/11/06/a1358a76-466b-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_story.html?utm_term=.a1048d31aef4
  17. Ibid.
  18. C. Richard King, Redskins (Omaha, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press 2016) 22.
  19. Tom Benjey, Keep A-goin’: The Life of Lone Star Dietz (Carlisle, Penn.: Tuxedo Press 2006) 195-200.
  20. Kevin Paul Dupont, “Redskins name debate traces back to Boston,” Boston Globe, Dec. 29, 2013. Last accessed Feb. 11, 2018. https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/12/29/redskins-wonder-what-name-the-answer-traces-back-boston/GmfYbPTnHx1Ht5NgqN1EOM/story.html
  21. Leiby, Washington Post.
  22. O’Toole, Fight for Old D.C., 23.
  23. Ian Shapira, “Federal judge orders cancellation of Redskins’ trademark registrations,” Washington Post, July 8, 2015. Last accessed Feb. 11, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/judge-upholds-cancellation-of-redskins-trademarks-in-a-legal-and-symbolic-setback-for-team/2015/07/08/5a65424e-1e6e-11e5-aeb9-a411a84c9d55_story.html?utm_term=.d6d99a9ccd8d
  24. Kurt Badenhausen, “Full list: The world’s 50 most valuable sports teams 2017,” Forbes.com, July 12, 2014. Last accessed Feb. 11, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2017/07/12/full-list-the-worlds-50-most-valuable-sports-teams-2017/#655fe054a05c



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