The Rooney family, and particular the Pittsburgh Steelers patriarchs that began with Art Rooney, Sr., ‘The Chief’, are best known for their ties to football, but anybody who has taken a look at them at any sort of deeper level understands that football, while huge, was just one piece of the puzzle.
His son, Dan Rooney in particular was known to be somebody who was socially responsible and conscious of how his actions affected others, which is why he treated everybody with a basic level of human dignity, something that frankly cannot be said for everybody, in the NFL or in society.
In commemoration of his life and legacy the year after his passing, Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University even held a day-long symposium that was dedicated to exploring the wide variety of contributions that Rooney made over the course of his life. That was not the only posthumous recognition he would receive.
The Rooney family was recently honored by the NCAAP, being this year’s recipient of the Judge Homer S. Brown Award during the organization’s 64th Human Rights Dinner for the Pittsburgh chapter. Brown was a founding member of that chapter after serving his community for half a century.
I surely don’t have to run down the list of Rooney’s life achievements that have contributed to the advancement of civil rights, even if it pertains to just one small segment of society. The NFL’s Rooney Rule was piloted by him, which is why it bears his name.
As Teresa Varley notes in an article on the team’s website, the Rooney Rule has also been used as a model for similar rules in other business enterprises. Dan Rooney himself has expressed the sentiment that he would hope this rule as much as anything would be his lasting legacy on the game.
The Steelers have also long been on the cutting edge when it comes to providing opportunities to minorities, on the playing field, among the coaching staff, and in the front office. Tony Dungy was the only black coordinator in the NFL in 1984 with the Steelers. He was, of course, originally a defensive back for the team.
I realize in writing this that there is a variety of opinions as it concerns social issues, and even the Rooney Rule itself, in spite of the fact that it is an integral part of Dan Rooney’s legacy. I don’t think it would be very appropriate to deliberately leave this honor off our site because it might not be something some people want to read.
Whether you disagree with the NAACP or the Rooney Rule or support one or the other or both, the Rooney family just received a lifetime recognition for the work that they have done in an effort to better people’s lives.