Hail to the Redskins: How a Rival’s Fight Song Helped Land an NFL Team in Dallas
As Cowboys fans, hearing Hail to the Redskins played over-and-over-and-over again during this Sunday’s Cowboys-Redskins game at Fed Ex Field may make your ears bleed. But every time you hear that song, say a quick little ‘thank you’ because, if not for that song, you may not have your beloved Cowboys team.
Here’s the story of Hail to the Redskins and how it helped land an NFL team in Dallas.
In the late 1950s, Texas oil tycoon and founding owner of the Dallas Cowboys Clint Murchison, Jr. was not the first wealthy businessman to attempt to bring an NFL franchise to Dallas. Lamar Hunt before him had applied for an expansion team, but was turned down, in much thanks to opposition like Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who – naturally – enjoyed his team’s monopoly on professional football fandom in the south.
But with the NFL’s rejection, Hunt gathered other rejected would-be NFL owners and formed the American Football League, or the AFL, and established the Dallas Texans. Not wanting the AFL to take hold of the regional market, the NFL quickly obliged Murchison’s request to start a Dallas franchise on the condition that all other NFL owners would approve, which brings us back to the big, bad Mr. Marshall.
Then fate stepped in.
As all of this Dallas talk was going down, Marshall had a very public falling-out with Redskins band director and composer of the team’s beloved fight song Barnee Breeskin. Breeskin sought revenge, and had his attorney sell the rights to the fight song – Hail to the Redskins – to Murchison. Essentially holding the song hostage, Murchison told Marshall he’d better approve his Dallas franchise or Hail to the Redskins would never ring through Griffith Stadium again. Recognizing the ballad to be indispensable to Redskins fans (and to his wife Corinne Griffith who wrote its lyrics), Marshall begrudgingly agreed to make the deal. Murchison got Marshall’s vote.
On Jan. 28, 1960, Murchison and the city of Dallas were granted an NFL franchise.