Former President Barack Obama released a statement in warm memory of late Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who died Thursday at age 84.
Rooney, in addition to his ownership duties with the Steelers, a franchise founded by his father, served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland during Obama’s first term. Rooney was a lifelong Republican who endorsed Obama in 2008 and became one of his strongest supporters.
“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,” Obama wrote in a statement. “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.
“And I know the people of Pittsburgh, who loved him not only for the Super Bowl championships he brought as the owner of the Steelers, but for his generosity of spirit, mourn his passing today. Michelle and I offer our condolences to the Rooney family, some of the most gracious and thoughtful people we know - even as we celebrate the life of Dan Rooney: a championship-caliber good man.”
Rooney is also credited for helping instate the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” which stipulates teams must interview at least one minority candidate for general manager and head coaching vacancies.
Steelers players paid tribute to Rooney on Thursday as well.