Redskins Named in Dietz’s Honor

Professor Joseph Gordon Hylton posed some opinions and asked a question with regard to the naming of the Redskins NFL team yesterday. He stated that George Preston Marshall, owner of the Boston NFL franchise, had a life-long fascination with Indians. That is believable because another NFL owner, Walter Lingo, believed there existed a mystical connection between Indians and the Airedales he raised and sold. His team was formed a decade before Marshall’s and was named the Oorang Indians. Now to Dr. Hylton’s question:

“Has anyone pinpointed the day that the name change was announced?”

I previously located letterhead for the Boston Braves that listed Lone Star Dietz as the head coach (see p. 278 of Keep A-goin’: the life of Lone Star Dietz) but hadn’t tried to pinpoint the exact date of the name change. A little research turned up the date Dietz was named head coach in a March 8, 1933 issue of The Boston Herald. The team was referred to as the Redskins on the sports page by the end of August, so it had to renamed before that. A little more research located the announcement of the team’s name change. The July 6, 1933 issue of The Boston Herald included a short article titled Braves Pro Gridmen to be Called Redskins (see below). This article establishes the fact that the Redskins were renamed well after Dietz’s hiring and includes the team’s published reason, “…the change was made to avoid confusion with the Braves baseball team and that the team is to be coached by an Indian, Lone Star Dietz, with several Indian players.”

This article supports the contention made by George Preston Marshall’s granddaughter several decades later.

1933-07-06 Redskins renamed

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3 Responses to “Redskins Named in Dietz’s Honor”

  1. Gordon Hylton Says:

    This is a great find. It suggests to me that the team’s name might have been changed to something else, except for the fact that Marshall was planning to put on the field an “Indian” team, coached by a Native American and featuring several Indian players.

    Given this intention, what other name could Marshall have chosen other than Redskins? A team named the Cleveland Indians had played in the NFL in 1931, and by 1933, the name Indians was so closely associated with the city of Cleveland that Indians wasnt really an option.

    With Braves and Indians out of the running, Redskins was probably the most logical name available. especially since there was no well known tribal name with strong Boston associations. The other available names, Chiefs, Scalpers, Savages–all used by other pre-1933 football teams–were not nearly so attractive as Redskins, particularly given aural similarities of Red Skins and Red Sox.

    Gordon Hylton
    Marquette University

    • tombenjey Says:

      As Mark Twain famously said, “Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

      Had Dietz not been the coach, Marshall might have named the team the Pilgrims or Patriots but definitely not Cowboys.


  2. Lone Star Dietz, Washington Redskins namesake, may have been an imposter | When You Put It That Way Says:

    […] football team change its name to the Boston Redskins. The team moved to Washington in 1937. Benjey wrote earlier this […]

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