The Washington Redskins announced Saturday that they will retire the jersey of late player Bobby Mitchell, the organization’s first Black player.
“There is no one more deserving of these honors than the late Bobby Mitchell. Bobby was one of the most influential players not only in our team’s history but in the National Football League,” Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder said in a Saturday statement.
“He excelled on 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. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known,” Snyder continued.
The team will also rename the lower level of its stadium, FedEx Field, in honor of Mitchell.
Former Redskins player Brig Owens called Mitchell “our Jackie Robinson” in the Saturday statement.
“He had to handle the pressure of being the first African American football player to integrate the Washington Redskins. He, like Jackie, was a military officer headquartered in the DC area when he received notice of his trade,” Owens said. “In the face of great adversity, he served as a role model for the Washington, D.C. community, The Redskins, its fan base and the NFL.”
Mitchell’s number, 49, is only the second number to be retired by the team in its history.
The news comes just one day after a monument depicting George Preston Marshall, founder of the Washington Redskins, was removed from RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Marshall refused to sign African American players until federal officials forced his hand in the 1960s.
The lower level of FedEx Field was previously named for Marshall.
The words “change the name” were also spray-painted onto the monument outside of the stadium where the team formerly played Friday. The team has faced widespread backlash over its name for its racist connotations for decades.
The news also comes as protesters across the country demonstrating in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd have torn down and defaced monuments dedicated to Confederate leaders, Christopher Columbus and more.
Mitchell’s family, including his wife, daughter and son, lauded the move in the Saturday statement.
“This honor would have meant the world to him. He would have been thrilled, appreciative and humbled. He felt that the retiring of a jersey is the ultimate recognition of an athlete. My father was a great family man who would have embraced this well-deserved recognition of his many accomplishments,” said Terri Mitchell, Mitchell’s daughter.
Mitchell also served as an assistant general manager with the team until he retired in 2002, according to ESPN.