Bobby Mitchell, first African American to play for Redskins, dead at 84

LANDOVER, MD – SEPTEMBER 03: A detailed view of a Washington Redskins helmet before the Washington Redskins play the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedExField. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Bobby Mitchell, the first Black player to become a member of the Washington Redskins, died Sunday afternoon. Mitchell was 84 years old.

Between 1962 and 1968, Mitchell played for the Redskins as a halfback. The Washington Redskins were the last National Football League (NFL) team to integrate and permit Black players to play for the organization.

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When he retired from professional football, Mitchell then became an executive with the team until 2002, according to WUSA 9.

The Arkansas native made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Dan Snyder, who owns the Washington Redskins, said he was saddened to hear the news and called Mitchell an important trailblazer who influenced the franchise.

“I was extremely saddened to hear the news about the passing of the great Bobby Mitchell. Bobby was a Hall of Fame player and executive and represented the Washington Redskins organization with integrity for over 50 years. His passion for the game of football was unmatched by anyone I have ever met,” Snyder said in a statement. “Not only was he one of the most influential individuals in franchise history, but he was also one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was a true class act and will be sorely missed.”

Bobby Mitchell

Bobby Mitchell, Redskins Website

Snyder added the statement by wishing Mitchell’s family Godspeed.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Gwen and the entire Mitchell family during this time,” he said.

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WUSA 9 said it took Pete Rozelle, then the NFL commissioner, along with a member of President John F. Kennedy’s cabinet, to get former Redskins’ owner, George Preston Marshall, to finally let Black players play.

Mitchell came to Washington from the Cleveland Browns and earned First-Team All-Pro during his first three seasons with the maroon and gold. Twice, he was the NFL’s receiving yards winner and once he was the NFL’s leader in receptions.

Mitchell is also in the Redskins Ring of Honor.