The Washington Redskins confirmed Tuesday that superfan Zema Williams, better known as Chief Zee, has died.
“The Washington Redskins will always appreciate Zema Williams’ unique passion and dedication to our football team and his fellow Washington Redskins fans,” the team wrote in a brief statement emailed to The Post.
Williams, who wore a burgundy and gold faux Indian headdress and carried a toy tomahawk as the Redskins’ unofficial mascot for nearly 40 years, attended his first game as Chief Zee on Oct. 2, 1978, a Monday night contest against the Cowboys at RFK Stadium. The Redskins won, 9-5.
In 2013, Williams claimed he had missed only four Redskins home games, all because of funerals, including the one following the death of his father in 1981. Williams also missed Washington’s season opener against Miami in 2007 to be at Texas Stadium for a pregame ceremony honoring Cowboys superfan Wilford “Crazy Ray” Jones, who died earlier that year. Williams traveled to Texas for Dallas Week in 28 of the first 29 years after he created the Chief Zee alter ego, primarily because of the friendship he formed with Crazy Ray, who missed only three Cowboys home games in 46 seasons.
“We became like brothers,” Williams once said of Jones, who first invited him to Texas for the Redskins-Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day in 1978 after seeing him in the RFK Stadium crowd on TV.
Williams occasionally traveled to Redskins road games, but he stopped going to Giants road games after being pushed down an escalator in 1979 and stopped attending Eagles road games after he had his leg broken and his right eye dislodged from its socket in the Veterans Stadium parking lot in 1983.
“I don’t put myself in danger like that no more,” Williams told The Post in 2007, one year after his left big toe was amputated following complications from a surgery. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder purchased a motorized scooter that Williams used to get around in his later years.
As Matt Terl of The Washington City Paper reported, a few die-hard Redskins fans started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Williams when he was behind on his rent earlier this year. Their goal was met in less than 24 hours and the list of donors included former Redskins Darryl Grant, Phillip Daniels and Leigh Torrance. One of the fans who organized the GoFundMe, who met Chief Zee as a kid at RFK Stadium and prefers to go by the name Tailgate Ted, announced that there will be a vigil for Williams at Redskins Park at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“I just can’t believe he’s gone,” he said Tuesday during a phone call with The Post.