Tag Archives: Bill Nunn

Knowing What We Don’t Know, Part Two: The Rooneys and Race Relations in the NFL


Bill Nunn, Jackie Robinson, and others: Teenie Harris photograph, via Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh website

By Ivan Cole

I want to thank Hombre for being a source of inspiration for Part One of this series. His first question in the latest 5 Smoldering Questions provides the launch point for Parts Two and Three:

Which of these key Dan Rooney decisions do you think was most consequential to the Steelers present day AND future legacy?

  • a) Listening to Bill Nunn’s complaints about how the franchise dealt with African American reporters and then convincing him to join the Steelers scouting department.
  • b) Hiring Chuck Noll.
  • c) Firing his brother Art Rooney Jr.
  • d) Choosing Bill Cowher over Tom Donahoe and replacing the latter with Kevin 
  • e) Hiring Mike Tomlin (or acquiescing to Art II decision to hire Tomlin)
  • f) Accepting the ambassadorship to Ireland and giving up control of the team.

I cheated and chose both a) and b) as most important, making the argument that to do justice to either demanded that their linkage be acknowledged. I feel that the Rooney (Dan and Art Sr.)/Noll/Nunn collaboration was in the same neighborhood of significance as Branch Rickey/Jackie Robinson, Paul Brown/Bill Willis, Marion Motley, and a handful of other collaborators whose actions resulted in significant transformation, not only in the supposedly trivial domain of sport, but also with significant spillover into the larger society. Read more

Training Camp for Fans Part Eight: What is the Steeler Way?


Dan Rooney, Bill Nunn, Art Rooney II, Aubrey Bruce  (Photo Thomas Sabol, The New Pittsburgh Courier)

by Ivan Cole

Pittsburgh was the Silicon Valley of the Industrial Age.

That was the assessment of Howard Fineman, Global Editorial Director of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group, and former Senior Editor of Newsweek. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Fineman, but we have at least three things in common: We both had newspaper routes selling the now defunct Pittsburgh Press, attended and graduated from the same high school, and wrote articles for the inaugural edition of another defunct publication the Steelers Annual.

Fineman made the Silicon Valley reference in his Steelers Annual piece. Over the years I have found myself constantly comparing this to another statement that disguises extraordinary complexity behind a façade of deceptive simplicity. Speaking thirty years ago at the National Press Club in Washington DC, writer James Baldwin was asked what needed to be done to effectively address race relations. His response: America needed to grow up.

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Can Coaching Get in the Way of Good Football?

by Ivan Cole

In recent years I have come to reject the idea of coincidence. So when the following three things came together I had to respond. The first is a statement I made in my Pittsburgh Steelers First Quarter Report:

“I do have a bone to pick with the offensive coordinator with some of his play calling decisions. The bookends being the Brown reverse against New England and some of the decisions late in the Ravens game. Each are variations on a theme and a theory that I will go out on a limb to advance. Is it possible that Haley’s liability is that he has not played the game?”

The reason I go there is that there are two things that Haley (and others, frankly) seem to lose sight of. First, better to fail with your best players attempting to do what they do best. This was something, to their credit they did attempt to do on the failed fourth down pass to Brown in overtime against Baltimore, though I would have chosen Bell. Against the Pats it was also Brown, but it wasn’t what he does best. The second is realizing that the most demoralizing thing you can do is not to outsmart an opponent, but to out execute them even when they know what’s coming. In other words, Lombardi 101. Sometimes the simplest thing is the best thing.

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