Tuesday 12 November 2019

American Football boss who developed the Rooney Rule dies aged 84

Dan Rooney pictured in 2012 - the powerful and popular Pittsburgh Steelers chairman has died aged 84 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Dan Rooney pictured in 2012 - the powerful and popular Pittsburgh Steelers chairman has died aged 84 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Dan Rooney, the American Football chairman whose name is attached to a landmark initiative in minority hiring, has died aged 84.

Barack Obama, who appointed Rooney US ambassador to Ireland, paid tribute to the man who had run the Pittsburgh Steelers since the 1960s.

The team announced his death but details were not immediately available.

Rooney was born on July 20 1932 in Pittsburgh, was a high school quarterback, took a degree in accounting and then became involved in the franchise that his father Art had founded.

Dan Rooney oversaw considerable success for the Steelers and o ver the decades he became one of the most powerful and innovative forces within the game.

He developed the Rooney Rule under which NFL (National Football League) teams are required to interview minority candidates for coaching and front-office positions.

It came about when officials and league lawyers recognised the need for a hiring policy that was fair and transparent, and the NFL had many critics over the lack of minorities in high-profile jobs, particularly as head coaches.

Rooney brought new employment requirements to his fellow owners and got the measure passed.

Under Rooney, two stadiums were built in Pittsburgh, securing their place in a small market where they are sporting kings.

He was also a key figure in labour negotiations and league expansion, and in 2000 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining his father.

Dan Rooney's son, Art II, has been the Steelers president since 2003, with Dan Rooney becoming chairman.

"My father meant so much to all of us, and so much to so many past and present members of the Steelers organisation," Art Rooney II said.

"He gave his heart and soul to the Steelers, the National Football League and the city of Pittsburgh. We will celebrate his life and the many ways he left us in a better place."

Rooney served as the US ambassador to Ireland from 2009-2012, becoming the first ambassador from the US to visit each of Ireland's 32 counties.

"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," former President Barack Obama said.

"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."

Rooney returned in 2012 and went back to work in the family business, becoming a fixture at the team's headquarters well into his 80s.

He regularly walked to home games in the Steel City. He mingled with fans, much as his father did before him, and made his players feel supremely comfortable in his presence.

He would frequently have lunch with members of the staff, players and even the media, stopping to say hello to everyone he came across.

"The National Football League, the game is your legacy," Rooney said during his Hall of Fame speech. "Protect it. Don't let anyone tarnish it."


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