Dan Rooney, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Owner and Champion of Diversity, Dies at 84

Dan Rooney, who brought tons of dignity and class to the National Football League for over four decades as the Chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has died. He was 84.

Rooney was the son of Art Rooney, the long-suffering, cigar-chomping Steelers owner who was rewarded with four Super Bowl championships after forty years of futility. The younger Rooney ran the club’s day-to-day operations from 1975-2003 when he gave way to his son, Art Rooney II.

Dan Rooney was one of the NFL’s most influential and powerful owners. The Rooney family has owned a piece of the Steelers since 1933 and along with the Mara family, who own 50% of the New York Giants and the McCaskeys in Chicago Bidwells in Arizona represent the last vestiges of family-owned franchises in the NFL.

“Dan Rooney was one of the greatest owners in all of professional sports,” New York Giants President & CEO John Mara said in a statement today. “More than that he was a great friend who was a man of principle and a role model for any of us privileged to be a part of the NFL. He leaves a legacy on our sport that will last for generations.”

“Few men have contributed as much to the National Football League as Dan Rooney. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was one of the finest men in the history of our game and it was a privilege to work alongside him for so many years,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement released by the league. “Dan’s dedication to the game, to the players and coaches, to his beloved Pittsburgh, and to Steelers fans everywhere was unparalleled. He was a role model and trusted colleague to commissioners since Bert Bell, countless NFL owners, and so many others in and out of the NFL. A voice of reason on a wide range of topics, including diversity and labor relations, Dan always had the league’s best interests at heart. For my part, Dan’s friendship and counsel were both inspiring and irreplaceable. My heart goes out to Patricia, Art, and the entire Rooney family on the loss of this extraordinary man.”

“RIP Dan. My Mentor & friend,” former Steelers coach Bill Cowher tweeted. “Thank you for your Guidance & Wisdom. I came a Young Coach & left a Better Man. Your spirit will live forever.”

In addition to winning six Super Bowl trophies, Rooney made his mark on the league in other ways. In 2003, “The Rooney Rule” was instituted, requiring all clubs to interview minority candidates for all head coaching vacancies and senior football operations openings. The rule has further been expanded to include women for executive positions.

Dan Rooney was an ardent supporter of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and as a result, was named the United States Ambassador to Ireland in 2009, a post he held until 2012.

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