Black Interests

I Remember The Redskins and Coach Thompson — When Kids Were First!

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Editorial Contribution Provided by Harold Bell (Washington Post   Dec 21, 1973 Dave Dupree)

In the 70s the Washington Redskins could be seen regularly on television and in magazines selling cars, hot dogs, and just about anything else, for various fees.  They would also appear on radio and television shows (if they didn’t have one of their own).  They could also be found at shopping centers and banquet halls to either talk about the team, themselves or merely to sign autographs. 

George Allen and his “Over the Hill Gang” were the talk of the town.  There was nothing wrong with this. The Redskins were the closest thing this city had to real heroes.  They contributed a great deal in uniting the city, and they earned the right to cash in on whom and what they were.

Their time was valuable and their careers were short, so it was only natural that they be paid for “Extra Appearances” they made.   

Hosting a toy party for kids in trouble and Harold Bell was an entirely different case. The players were not paid for their time and if they had been offered a fee they would not have accepted it. 

The toy party was on a night before they were to depart for Bloomington, Minn. and play the the most important game of the season against the Minnesota Vikings.  Roy, Harold and Dave spend more than three hours with 125 inner-city youth from from the Hillcrest Children’s Center Saturday Program.  They wanted to try to help make the kids Christmas a merry one and they succeeded.    

Washington Redskins wide receiver Roy Jefferson in 1973. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)

“Getting paid for for an affair like like this would be ridiculous, Roy said. These are the kids of Washington we are dealing with and they represent the city, so this is the least we can do.

 In conjunction with the Twin Bridges Hotel, the toy party was coordinated by youth advocate and sports talk show radio pioneer Harold Bell. Roy, Harold and Dave were the host for the toy party. 

The youngsters got plenty of food, viewed an hour of video cartoons, there was live entertainment and were paid a visit by Santa Claus himself, Harold McLinton in white beard, red suit.  He told the kids Rudolph and the reindeer were in the parking lot.  

The evening was more meaningful to the children because they had the opportunity to spend time with the players even though they had a big game coming up the next day against the Minnesota Vikings.  

On the other side of the coin, the players themselves got just as big a kick as did the youngsters.  Their concerns for the kids were genuine. 

The night’s Christmas toy party was one of the best ways they had of letting inner-city youth know that someone important can and does care about them.  

The three Redskins on hand had been doing things like this year-round and their only reward was seeing a kids smile and that was good enough for them. 

John Thompson was in his second year as the basketball coach at Georgetown University.  He was the first black coach in the history of the school and was not yet on the radar screens of NCAA Division One and NIT tournament selection committees.

Thompson took over a team that finished with a record of 3-22 the year before his arrival to break even the following year (500).  He was founding difficult to win games and promote his program until sports talk show host Harold Bell gave him five-minutes to promote the team on Inside Sports.  The show was aired on  W-O-O-K radio. Bell then invited Thompson to join the Redskin players for his annual toy party for needy children. Thompson brought his entire team to the Marriott to chaperon the party.

The Redskin players brought the tee-shirts and caps for the boys and DC Superior Court Judge Luke Moore purchased the dolls and other toys for the girls.  The Redskins and Santa’s Helpers made it a Merry Christmas for one and all.

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