Dan Rooney with his father, Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr., in 1966 (AP)
Dan Rooney, who succeeded his father and Steelers founder, Art Sr., as team president and rose to become one of the most powerful and beloved owners in sports, died Thursday at the age of 84.
Born Daniel Milton Rooney, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, making the Rooneys only the second father-son combination to be enshrined. Under his leadership since the late 1960s, the Steelers transformed from lovable losers into a Super Bowl dynasty in the 1970s and remain among the most successful and popular franchises in the game.
A powerful voice in the NFL for decades, often out of the public eye, he helped settle two players’ strikes, served on many league committees and was a confidante and adviser to three commissioners. He fought to give more opportunities for minority coaches to ascend in the NFL, an effort that prompted the adoption of what is known as the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority coach in the process of hiring a head coach.
Then at an age when many cut back on their activities, Mr. Rooney took on more in an entirely different field when President Barack Obama appointed him as United States ambassador to Ireland, a job he began two weeks before his 77th birthday.
Ranked for decades among the most powerful voices in the NFL, he handled himself with the kind of modesty that endeared him to colleagues and office workers alike, showing up daily at his only place of business, the offices of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Dan has always led with humility,’’ said Hall of Famer Joe Greene while presenting Mr. Rooney for induction at Canton, Ohio, in 2000. “When things go as planned, Dan is in the background. When things don’t go as planned, he’s in the forefront.”
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