The Washington Redskins announced this morning that they have retired the jersey number(#49) for Bobby Mitchell. He becomes only the second player in franchise history to have their jersey number retired after Sammy Baugh(#33). Mitchell was the first black player for the Redskins. They were the last NFL team to integrate, and team owner George Preston Marshall only did so after threats from the US government to take away the use of District of Columbia Stadium(RFK Stadium) for games. The Redskins will also be changing the honorary name of the lower level of FedEx Field seating from George Preston Marshall to Bobby Mitchell.
We’re pleased to announce the official jersey retirement (#49) of Pro Football Hall of Famer, humanitarian, and all-time legend Bobby Mitchell.— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) June 20, 2020
Only the second player in our history to receive this honor (Sammy Baugh #33).
Details: https://t.co/ih6STuP24d pic.twitter.com/xaPPvnc22t
The Redskins drafted Ernie Davis, but traded him to the Cleveland Browns for Mitchell and Leroy Jackson. Mitchell went on to play 7 seasons for Washington, finishing his career there. He played 98 games and 393 receptions for 6,492 yards and 49 TDs, and also had 90 carries for 438 yards and 2 TDs. Mitchell also had over 1,200 yards combined between kickoff and punt returns and added another 2 TDs to his total on special teams with the Redskins.
Bobby Mitchell wasn’t done with Washington when he retired 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 GM title he desired with the team, but stayed with the organization until retiring in 2003.
He said in his 2003 interview that he had aspired to be the NFL’s first black general manager before being passed over by team owner Edward Bennett Williams in favor of Bobby Beathard and by owner Jack Kent Cooke in favor of Charley Casserly.
“Mr. Cooke was the one I was upset with because he never said a word to me, which showed disrespect to me,” Mitchell said then. “He said Charley was ‘preeminently qualified.’ This has nothing to do with Charley. He’s a friend. All Mr. Cooke had to say to me was, ‘Charley is going to be the general manager,’ like Mr. Williams said to me with Bobby Beathard. I’ve always been crazy about Mr. Cooke. I still am. I genuinely like the man, but that was a deep hurt.”
Mitchell said he also was hurt when former Redskins coach Steve Spurrier temporarily allowed Mitchell’s jersey No. 49 to be worn by tight end Leonard Stephens. Mitchell’s number had not been officially retired by the team but, before that, had been on a list of unofficially retired numbers that a former equipment manager refused to hand out. Spurrier said later that the team made a mistake and Mitchell’s number wouldn’t be worn. Even so, Mitchell said when he retired that he didn’t leave the Redskins with bitterness.
Bobby Mitchell was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and is also member of the Redskins Ring of Fame. He was a Redskins and NFL legend. He passed away on April 5th, 2020.