The NFL extortion scheme that created the Dallas Cowboys

The NFL extortion scheme that created the Dallas Cowboys

Clint Murchison Jr.

The Dallas Cowboys entered the NFL in 1960, but only after extorting one of their future colleagues into allowing their admission.

Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who owned the Redskins organization since its inception in 1932, took great pride in being the only NFL below the Mason Dixon Line. He considered the entire South to be Redskins fan territory and consequently opposed allowing Clint Murchison Jr.’s ownership group into the league.

Preston’s feelings about the Redskins fan base were aptly reflected in the team fight song, Hail to the Redskins. The second-oldest team song in the NFL (Green Bay’s Go! You Packers, Go! was written in 1931 by Eric Karll), Hail to the Redskins was written in 1937 when the Redskins moved from Boston to Washington D.C. and lyrics that fans today sing are altered from the original. Instead of “Fight for Old D.C.” the original lyrics were “Fight for Old Dixie.”

Barnee Breeskin, a D.C.-area band, was the orchestra leader for the Blue Room at D.C.’s Shoreham Hotel in 1937 when he wrote the music for Hail to the Redskins. The controversial lyrics were written by former entertainer Corinne Griffith, Marshall’s wife. In 1938, Breeskin secured the rights to the song, which remained in his possession while he was the team’s director of entertainment and the leader of the Redskin Wigwam Band, which played at every home game, from 1938 to 1952.

Breeskin left the Redskins and started his own public relations agency, taking the rights to Hail to the Redskins with him. Despite widespread rumors that Breeskin did not like Marshall, nothing unusual happened with the rights for the song until the NFL began to talk about expansion for the 1960 season.

Corinne Griffith

Because he considered Texas to be part of the Redskins fan base, Marshall refused to support NFL expansion into Dallas. Undaunted, Murchison and one of his Cowboys partners, Bedford Wynne, arranged to purchase from Breeskin the rights to Hail to the Redskins. Murchison and Wynne then informed Marshall that if he did not vote for their group to be awarded an expansion franchise for Dallas, the Redskins would be forbidden to use the song.

Marshall changed his mind.

On January 28, 1960, the Murchison group was awarded the NFL right for Dallas. The Cowboys were born, thanks to a few threats among millionaires.



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Washington Post