Bobby Mitchell to Have Number Retired; Washington Franchise’s 1st Black Player

Halfback Bobby Mitchell (49) of the Washington Redskins does a spin move in the open field during a 14-37 loss to the Cleveland Browns on September 15, 1963, at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nate Fine/Getty Images) Local Caption

Nate Fine/Getty Images

Washington‘s football team announced Saturday it will retire the No. 49 of late Hall of Fame wide receiver and running back Bobby Mitchell.

Team owner Dan Snyder said the following about the decision:

“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. 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.”

Mitchell will join legendary quarterback Sammy Baugh as only the second player in team history to have his number retired.

The team also announced that the lower level of FedExField will be renamed in Mitchell’s honor. It had previously been named after team founder George Preston Marshall.

A statue honoring Marshall outside of RFK Stadium was removed Friday. There had been a push to get the monument taken down because Marshall resisted integrating Black players into the team until he was forced to do so in 1962, making him the last NFL owner to integrate.

Mitchell, who died in April at the age of 84, was one of three Black players to play for the team in 1962, per Richard Goldstein of the New York Times.

He spent the first four seasons of his career with the Cleveland Browns as both a running back and receiver before getting traded to Washington, where he was almost exclusively a flanker.

Mitchell led the NFL in receptions (72) and receiving yards (1,384) in 1962 while also catching 11 touchdown passes. He again led the league in receiving yards in 1963 with 1,436 and was tops in receiving touchdowns in 1964 with 10.

In his seven seasons with the team, Mitchell was a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro. He averaged 63 receptions for 1,060 yards and eight touchdowns in his first six seasons in Washington.

Mitchell is a member of Washington’s Ring of Fame and Cleveland’s Ring of Honor.

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