Thursday, April 13, 2017

R.I.P. Dan Rooney

Second only to his father, "The Chief," Dan Rooney was the most beloved figure in Pittsburgh in my lifetime.  A few, like the late mayor Richard Caliguiri and several venerable local media stars might come close, but Rooney likely surpasses them.

Rooney's death was announced today.  He was 84.

He was heir to the Pittsburgh Steelers who oversaw decades of success, bringing six Super Bowl trophies to the city.  But he tested that popularity with his leadership in fighting racism in the NFL, formulating the Rooney Rule that requires that candidates of color be interviewed for top coaching jobs.  He tested it again by openly advocating for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential elections.

Pittsburghers were proud of his influence on the NFL, and they learned something from his calm and conciliatory style.  The NYTimes obituary chronicles his achievements.

He was with the Steelers for his entire working life (starting as a water boy), except for several years as Ambassador to Ireland (where he visited every county.) He was appointed by President Obama, who issued a statement today that reads:

"Dan Rooney was a great friend of mine, but more importantly, he was a great friend to the people of Pittsburgh, a model citizen, and someone who represented the United States with dignity and grace on the world stage. I knew he'd do a wonderful job when I named him as our United States Ambassador to Ireland, but naturally, he surpassed my high expectations, and I know the people of Ireland think fondly of him today.

"And I know the people of Pittsburgh, who loved him not only for the Super Bowl championships he brought as the owner of the Steelers, but for his generosity of spirit, mourn his passing today. Michelle and I offer our condolences to the Rooney family, some of the most gracious and thoughtful people we know -- even as we celebrate the life of Dan Rooney: a championship-caliber good man."

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