Steelers’ president Art Rooney II was named to the board of the newly formed National Football League Foundation, which will focus on youth football, health and safety and community.
The foundation is a result of the merger of NFL Charities and the NFL Youth Football Fund, and all endeavors in those areas will now be handled by the foundation.
“The idea is to consolidate the effort and be more efficient,” said Rooney. “I am looking forward to serving on this board and having the opportunity to have some influence on the mission of NFL charities.”
The foundation plans on awarding more than $23 million in grants in 2013 to support the various programs, including youth football initiatives which Rooney is a strong proponent of.
“It has been one of the things I have talked a lot about in the league, our need to support youth football,” said Rooney. “From my perspective that will be a priority in terms of making sure we are doing what we need to do to support youth football.”
Rooney is looking forward to the league continuing to work with USA Football, which serves as football’s national governing body, including aiding youth football organizations across the country. Rooney’s vision is to continue to encourage the safety of the game, teaching the proper fundamentals and techniques and making youth football available to all who want to participate.
“It’s the foundation of our sport,” said Rooney. “Having kids play football, and in this day and age in particular having them have the opportunity to play in organizations that are well run, where they understand the needs in terms of player safety and good coaching, is important. Now more than ever we need to make sure we are supporting those kinds of efforts.”
While Pop Warner is one of the main youth football organizations, it only encompasses a small percentage of youth football organizations nationwide and the key for the NFL is assuring all leagues are operating with the goal of safety first and foremost.
“One of the challenges is making sure we are reaching out to all these various organizations that are involved in sponsoring youth football and making sure they are embracing player safety and good coaching techniques,” said Rooney. “We need to reach out to the organizations and make sure the game continues to grow at the youth level.”
The Steelers organization embraces youth football in Western Pennsylvania, participating in numerous activities including a Steelers Youth Football Camp, with current and former players and high school coaches as instructors, Steelers/USA Football Coaching Clinic that offers proper coaching techniques and safety measures, and Gatorade Junior Training Camps. In addition to a variety of other activities the team hosts youth football halftime exhibitions during the season at select games, inviting local youth teams to play in front of the Heinz Field crowd.
“It’s great to see the young kids come in to Heinz Field,” said Rooney. “Plus, individuals from our organization go to clinics and programs around the area and we just have to continue to do more of it and provide good leadership to youth football organizations.”
Rooney’s involvement in the Pittsburgh community is extensive and he serves as Chairman of the Board of the United Way of Allegheny County, and on the Boards of the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, the Pittsburgh Public Theater and the Extra Mile Foundation.
Rooney will serve on the NFL Foundation board with Charlotte Jones Anderson, Executive Vice President/Vice President of Brand Management/ President of the Charity Foundation of the Dallas Cowboys, Michael Bidwell, President of the Arizona Cardinals, Shahid Khan, Owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mary Owen, Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning, Buffalo Bills, Mike Reinfeldt, Senior Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of the Tennessee Titans and Leonard Wilf, Owner/Vice Chairman of the Minnesota Vikings.