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Rooney family honored by NAACP

Leaving a legacy.

It’s something that Homer S. Brown likely never set out to do, but rather did by his actions.

Brown was the first African American judge in Pittsburgh, an esteemed civil and political rights activist who earned his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1923 and served the community for over 50 years. He made a difference, from investigating the local Board of Elections refusal to hire African American teachers, to passing bills that resulted in the eventual creation of the Housing Authority, while also being the founder of the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP.

The late Dan Rooney, the former Steelers Chairman and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, also never set out to leave a legacy. Like Brown, it happened through his actions.

That is why Dan Rooney, and the Rooney family including his son, Steelers President Art Rooney II, were honored at the recent 64th Annual NAACP Human Rights Dinner, receiving the Judge Homer S. Brown Award, the highest honor given by the organization.

Rooney was the driving force who fought for diversity and equality in the NFL that eventually led to the development of the Rooney Rule when the poor record of hiring of minority head coaches was brought to the NFL’s attention by Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran, both U.S. civil rights attorneys in their report titled ‘Black Coaches in the NFL: superior performance, inferior opportunities’ back in 2002 after both Tony Dungy and Dennis Green were fired, despite them having a winning track record in their careers. Rooney wrote a letter to then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who created a group of owners that Rooney chaired to work on it.

Rooney worked diligently with the committee, until what became known as the Rooney Rule was passed in 2002. The rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for openings in coaching and senior football operations positions. It was recently expanded to require teams to interview women for executive positions as well.

The rule has been adopted by other corporations, spreading across America and beyond, a true legacy left by Rooney.

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