The stadium was opened in October 1961 as the District of Columbia Stadium (D.C. Stadium for short). The stadium was renamed in January 1969, for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated in Los Angeles the previous June. The announcement was made by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall on January 18, in the last days of the Johnson Administration.
As attorney general in the early 1960s, Kennedy's Justice Department played a role in the racial integration of the Redskins. Along with Udall, Kennedy threatened to revoke the team's lease at the federally-owned stadium until it promised to sign African American players.