Sunday, May 31, 2009

Redskins Origins

When you look at the origins of the Washington Redskins, I find it interesting how the Redskins became the Redskins. They weren't always the Redskins, matter of fact they weren't always based in Washington (or Virginia or Maryland for that matter). Usually teams are named based on their locales and events (or careers) that influenced that city and their history. So the Ravens for example make sense in Baltimore for Edgar Allen Poe. The Steelers, Packers and 49ers were named after professions. Some teams just like animals and named the team after fierce creatures. But where did the Redskins name and logo come from? You might be surprised.

With the annual topic of "Is the Washington Redskins name and logo offensive?" brought back up recently (go look it up) I thought I would delve into the origins of where the Redskins name came from and also who came up with the modern/current logo. No debate here (again, there are plenty of websites to do that) on the topic, just an origin of where everything came from and why.

*(The following historical info. I found from The Redskins Encyclopedia on pages 2 and 3 by author Michael Richman. I highly suggest you pick up a copy, it is a wonderful source for Redskins history and stats.)

*Originally, the Washington Redskins were the Boston Braves. The Braves' name for the franchise was created because they played at Braves Field, home of the baseball team the Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves). Original, huh? But, Redskins historian Michael Richman notes that many football teams at the time took the local baseball team's name (I believe there were Yankee, Dodger and Pirate teams at one time) so fans could root for one team. I guess it's good that the Skins didn't originate in DC or they'd be the Senators or the Nationals........

*In 1932 , owner George Preston Marshall moved his team to Fenway Park (home of the Boston Red Sox). Marshall wanted to keep the Native American/Indian theme but also have fans identify with the baseball team, so he changed the team's name. Thus, the Boston Redskins and eventually the Washington Redskins (when they moved to DC) were born.

This brings me to the Redskins current logo. In the late 60's the Skins current helmet was the yellow "R" helmet (see below, it was also used as the 2007 throwback helmet).

I believe this helmet was designed by the legendary coach Vince Lombardi.

The Redskins were approached by Walter Wetzel (a Native American who was the president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Blackfeet Nation). Wetzel suggested that the team use a Indian chieftain to replace the "R" and emphasize the Redskins Native American/Indian ties.
"Back then, (in the 1960s) there was only the letter "R" on the helmet, so I requested a few pictures to be sent down from my reservation of Indian chiefs," Wetzel explained.
Wetzel said he walked into the office of the Washington Redskins and said, "I came here to see you guys about seeing a real Indian on the helmets."

-from "Tribal Leader Rubbed Elbows With Elite"
By: Shawn White Wolf (website/article link)

Eventually, a final design was made and the Redskins incorporated the new logo to a burgundy helmet with yellow(gold) and white stripes in 1972. It has remained the main helmet of the team ever since (with some slight modifications over the years). You would recognize it as this helmet with this logo:

The Redskins organization have made it clear that they have no current plans to change the name or logo, Wetzel's reply to this:
"I felt good about that, and they are proud to wear it".

(Special Thanks goes to TK of ExtremeSkins, without his post back in 2004 I would have not known about Walter Wetzel in the first place and his place in Redskins and US history).