Dan Rooney - hypocrite; Ben Roethlisberger; Ernie Holmes
Dan Rooney is the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I have been disillusioned with him ever since he credited Barack Obama for the Steelers' victory in Super Bowl 43.
Barack Obama has never had reason to demand the return of his 30 pieces of silver.
Now Dan Rooney has been conspicuously noncommittal about Ben Roethlisberger in the face of a scandal in which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger somehow avoided criminal charges in Georgia. Rooney refused to defend Roethlisberger, preferring instead to praise the backup quarterback regarding the backup's charitable work in Pittsburgh:
"My job is in Ireland," added Rooney, now the U.S. ambassador to that country, indicating that the team in his absence is run by his son, president Art Rooney II, along with coach Mike Tomlin and director of player personnel Kevin Colbert. "I would just say that it's a serious matter. And it's being handled properly with Art, Mike and Kevin Colbert. I think they're handling it very well. The commissioner as you know saw Ben [in New York Tuesday]. I don't have any more to say."Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - 4-15-2010
Asked about the general behavior his family expects from Steelers, Rooney -- standing with state AFL-CIO officers, his son, Jim, and Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch -- said: "I think the players have to be special. And we have a special man here in Charlie, what he's done, what his foundation does as far as children in this community is exemplary. That's the way it should be. Everybody makes mistakes. But I don't even want to talk about that."
This and other noncommittal behavior has been interpreted by many in Pittsburgh as a public rebuke to Roethlisberger by the Steelers. The Steelers are prepared to suspend Roethlisberger related to the Georgia incident.
The Steelers' (and Dan Rooney's) attitude toward Roethlisberger stands in marked contrast to a different incident in the 1970's when one of the Steelers was arrested for shooting a police officer. In 1973, defensive tackle Ernie Holmes fired a gun at trucks on the highway and a police helicopter, wounding one officer and endangering the entire helicopter crew. After a large manhunt, Holmes surrendered. Dan Rooney was supportive of his tackle in that case:
This time the Steelers helped him out. [Coach Chuck] Noll and Dan Rooney went to the jail where he [Holmes] was being held and the Chief [Dan's father Art] visited him nearly every day in the Western Pennsylvania Psychiatric Hospital, where he stayed for almost two months. He pleaded guilty on three counts of intent to kill and was placed on five years probation.Roy Blount, Jr., About Three Bricks Shy of a Load, (1974) p. 57
The Rooneys' support of Holmes was very public and contributed to the Rooneys' image as "caring" owners. Ernie Holmes was never suspended.
So Dan Rooney stands by a man who shot a policeman (and pled guilty) only to abandon his quarterback who was charged with nothing. As another Post-Gazette columnist noted:
There also is pressure on the Steelers -- again, some of it racial -- to come down hard on Roethlisberger.
Whether the Rooneys are simply yielding to racial pressure or are determined to make the Steelers into an affirmative action football team, the effect is the same. While I do not defend Roethlisberger, make no mistake that the Steelers' choice of who to discipline is based not on moral outrage, but the kind of political calculation that landed Dan Rooney in Ireland.