Integrated versus segregated NFL teams
It bears mention that from the period between 1946 and 1961, when the Browns and Rams introduced integrated teams to pro football, while Washington enforced a whites-only policy, Marshall’s teams went 69-116.
Meanwhile, those teams that were the first to integrate — the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams went 151-42 and 102-83 respectively. The Browns won seven championships and sent Marion Motley, Bill Willis, not to mention newcomer Jim Brown to the Hall of Fame. The Los Angeles Rams won one championship and made it to the championship game two other times, losing to the Browns.
Johnson and Glauber conclude Marshall’s drama with the story of Marshall’s monument in front of the stadium being torn down in 2020. The FedEx Field lower seating level is no longer the George Preston Marshall level. It’s now the Bobby Mitchell Level, named after the first African American player for the Washington team, who incidentally was acquired in a 1962 trade with the Browns for the late Ernie Davis.
For years, present Washington owner Dan Snyder continued to use whiny arguments to retain the team’s name and logo, inherited from Marshall. The organization had other human relations issues not related to the naming of the franchise (was it by coincidence?), and only recently agreed to seek to remedy these deficiencies. We can only hope that Snyder continues to develop and grow in his role as the leader of one of the most potentially influential sports franchises on earth, though most of that potential seems to have been wasted.
In contrast, Johnson and Glauber write about the community impact that the Cleveland Browns had more than 50 years ago, even as Art Modell was running Jim Brown out of town. How many of today’s fans are aware of the efforts by Jim Brown and John Wooten in forming the Black Economic Union in 1966, with Muhammad Ali as an active partner? Did they even know Muhammad Ali had a Cleveland connection?
Today’s NFL has placed increased urgency on community involvement and social equality. The Cleveland Browns, especially in the early days, had a major leadership role in these concerns. Tragically, today’s fans and even the league itself have largely forgotten the importance of the events of 1946.
Where was the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the integration of the NFL? That was this year! Hello? MLB has done a great job of keeping Jackie Robinson’s memory alive, but what about the NFL? The NFL, incidentally, does not even recognize the records of the All-American Football Conference, even though the AAFC outspent the NFL on player salaries in the early postwar years so that the most talented players were in the AAFC and not the NFL. Your Cleveland Browns didn’t even exist as far as the NFL is concerned.
Johnson and Glauber’s book helps to restore the forgotten memories of very important events of a generation ago. Definitely pick this book up. Andrew Berry, if you’re reading this, you may wish to consider handing this book out to every player and employee when they set foot on 76 Lou Groza Blvd.
Everyone connected to the team needs to know about the important heritage of the Cleveland Browns and how the team contributed to the modern NFL.