Lions Owner Ford Criticizes Steelers Rooney

<b>LATROBE --</B> Dan Rooney defended his organization's record on minority hiring a day after Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford criticized the Steelers and the NFL for being hypocritical on their stance against the Lions.

The Lions were fined $200,000 for failing to following the league's minority-hiring policy before hiring new coach Steve Mariucci in January.

Ford championed his team's record for hiring minorities while also saying "the Steelers and the league office have a terrible record. They're great ones to be picking us out."

The Lions were fined after five minority candidates turned down interviews after it appeared Mariucci would be hired. The guidelines for the policy, which was put in place Dec. 20, were set forth by the diversity committee, headed by Rooney, the Steelers' chairman, and called for the Lions to interview at least one minority head coaching candidate.

Said Rooney: "As far as the Steelers are concerned, I'm very proud of our record from the very first to now. We had an African-American (Ray Kemp) on our very first team and we've had some outstanding players play for us down through the years.

"We've always looked at the situation and tried to be as open as possible. My father (Art Rooney) was a very open person and got along with everyone. We've had the first woman trainer (Ariko Iso) in the National Football League, who is an Asian, and we've had many others. So I'm very proud of that."

"I had the job of being the head of the diversity committee and I think the diversity committee did an outstanding job and did as much as we could do. Everybody made the commitment to follow the program and it was fine."

The Steelers currently have three minorities in their front office, four on their coaching staff, three in their scouting department and one on their training staff. Those departments contain 36 employees.

"I'm very proud of that record, too," Rooney said of his front office. "I think our record there speaks for itself. You have to know who's who. We don't run around saying who's a minority and who isn't."

Rooney said he understood why he was singled out by Ford.

"I'm chairman of the committee," he said. "I should've been."

Rooney also said that he's not disappointed in the Fords.

"Hey, listen, everybody gets frustrated," he said. "Bill Ford Jr. particularly is a good friend of mine, has been and I still consider him a good friend. And I've had a lot of respect for Mr. Ford and will continue to do so."

Jim Wexell

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