Covert Matters Digest

                Washington Redskins’ Name


                     Hanging on ‘Parsimoniously’ to a Brand


                           George Preston Marshall and Shirley Povich

By Roy Meachum

Roy Meachum

Not for the first time, there’s a movement afoot to change the name of Washington’s staunch NFL subsidiary, to something else, less offensive to American Natives. Only real Indians didn’t start the movement.

My friend and erstwhile colleague, the late Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich, detested George Preston Marshall who started the team–and until his death was the only stockholder of importance. I never understood.  Above all else, the West Virginia native was a serious businessman. His father started Palace Laundries; by the time he died, the son inherited about 100 locations. His Seventh Street office, where I first met him, was over-towered by a building cleaning and starching shirts and other items.

Mr. Marshall—I never called him George—was an unabashed miser; it can be strenuously argued that his cause of entry into professional sports, in the late 1920s: the price was right. He tried basketball first in Washington and soon gave up. Boston was a hot-bed sports town; they had two major league baseball teams. Trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Braves, his football club was named for the MLB team, until there was a dispute and he was forced to change the practicing to Red Sox’s Fenway Field. The Redskins were hanging on to the brand name, parsimoniously.

Shuffling Off From Boston to the Nation’s Capital

Disgusted with Bostonians’ non-appearances at games, Mr. Marshall shuffled to Washington where he owned all the laundries. Ever the promoter, he established not only the NFL first marching band and cheerleaders, but the ladies were attired in long faux leather dresses and wigs so they were seen as Indians; the musicians wore similar uniforms feathers.

As a part of the promotional effort, he created a radio network to carry the games in the South, where there were no franchises when the broadcasts began. Television came later. Keeping in mind his stinginess, in those pre-integration years, he refused to sign an African American player, which made Shirley Povich mad as hell. He lost “Hail to the Redskins” to the Dallas Cowboys. Clint Murchison Jr. had bought it from song’s composer, Barnee Briskin, who conducted the Griffith Park strings and brass. It was held in hostage until Mr. Marshall agreed to NFL team in Texas, shattering his self-imposed segregation—and insuring the perpetual ire of Shirley Povich.

A few years later, I returned as a Washington Post reporter, which caused me to doubt my youth’s hero. On an assignment to the National Gallery of Art, I was latched onto by Branch Rickey, everywhere recognized as the integrator of major league baseball, through Jackie Robinson. On my way through the sports department, I excitedly announced my “scoop” to Shirley. He lambasted Mr. Rickey with dirty language, as integrating “nothing.”

When I was the public relations man for the National Symphony Orchestra, I invited news photographers in to announce the musicians would be playing at the Redskins half-time. By chance–I had no influence–the Daily News editors decided to run Conductor Howard Mitchell in feather headdress on the tabloid’s front cover, which brought me lunches at Mr. Marshall’s well-fed table. I also received season tickets for several years, until I moved out of town.

The Washington NFL owner became my friend, more so than when he mentioned Leon Bakst; the dance designer moved to Hollywood when the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo died. I knew him from my several years administrating Marjorie Merriweather Post’s National Ballet Foundation. Mr. Marshall shared other adventures.

I can’t imagine the man inventing the name coming up with an exception to changing Redskins—unless it cost business and most of all, profits.


Roy Meachum lives in Frederick, Md. He has had a distinguished print and broadcast career for many years at The Washington Post, Frederick News-Post and WTOP-TV, forerunner to WUSA-TV/ and a long career in diplomacy. This column appeared in last week’s


It’s integrity stupid!

Battle over Guns Troubles Politicians

A State Senator’s Deception


By Karl Bickel


Karl Bickel

For those of us old enough to recall the 1992 presidential election, many can remember references to a sign in Bill Clinton’s campaign headquarters. It is said to have read “its the economy stupid.” It helped to maintain focus and served as a constant reminder of the biggest problem of the day.

Of course, as a point to focus on, the economy is no less important today. That having been said, another sign that should grace, campaign headquarters and politician’s offices is “its integrity stupid.” Integrity or the lack there of, among our elected officials, is as big a problem as the economy and undoubtedly a contributing factor in our troubling fiscal situation.

Confidence in our elected representatives is at an all time low, exemplified by congresses ranking of dead last in Gallup’s 2012 poll on public confidence in institutions.

If “your word is your bond,” how can we possibly have confidence in our political representatives if we can’t believe what they say, if their honesty, their integrity, is called into question?

On February 27th, in support of the licensing portion of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s gun control proposal, Senator Brian Frosh-D of Montgomery County claimed “It reduces crime when people have to get these licenses.” He reportedly supported his contention by stating that Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, with laws similar to that being proposed in Maryland have lower rates (presumably than Maryland) of gun violence.

Every morning my alarm clock goes off and shortly thereafter the sun comes up. Senator Frosh does not provide any evidence that crime is impacted by the governor’s proposed licensing provision any more than the impact my alarm clock has on the morning’s sunrise.

The aforementioned states do have lower rates of gun violence than Maryland. But since Maryland is ranked #3 in gun violence, according to a web site dedicated to making state comparisons, 42 other states have lower rates of gun violence as well. This is in spite of Maryland’s already more restrictive gun laws.

Also worth mentioning, Vermont and Alaska, states that don’t even require a license to carry a concealed firearm in public, rank #50 and #45 respectively, yet I make no claim that unlicensed carrying of a concealed weapon leads to lower gun crime rates. As in the senator’s example there may be a bit of a correlation but clearly no evidence of a cause and effect.

My point is the senator made claims, claims in support of legislation he was supportive of, claims that are just not true. Now had it not been for the fact that the senator ventured into an area in which I have some knowledge, crime and criminals, I would not have been aware of the deception.

This begs the question: do we believe anything our politicians’ say once we have direct knowledge of their propensity for deception? Since most of what they say will be outside of our base of direct knowledge, we must have some confidence in their honesty, their integrity?

Lately it seems that more and more that confidence is lost, replaced by doubt. Its integrity stupid!


Karl Bickel is a former detective at Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, assistant professor of criminal justice and former second in command of the Frederick County Maryland Sheriff’s Office.