Goodell meets with Rooney family on Steelers ownership

Updated: August 27, 2008, 10:19 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn't issue any ultimatums after meeting with the five Rooney brothers Tuesday about the future of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He did emphasize that three-quarters of league owners must approve any potential sale, and team chairman Dan Rooney happens to be very popular among other owners.

"There's great respect for the Rooney family in the National Football League,'' Goodell said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, after a 2½-hour meeting at league headquarters with the five Rooney brothers, "and we want to do everything we can to ensure that the Steelers continue to be operated by the Rooneys and the way they've been operated."

Dan Rooney and his four brothers each own 16 percent of the franchise. Dan and son Art Rooney II, the Steelers' president, are attempting to buy enough shares to become primary owners, but the brothers could receive more money selling on the open market.

According to previous reports, four brothers have received two offers to sell their combined 64 percent interest in the Steelers -- one from New York billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, and one from Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II, who also was at Tuesday's meeting.

"They've run a model franchise, and I think everyone in Pittsburgh recognizes how proud they are of the Steelers, and we in the NFL recognize how fortunate we have been to have Dan Rooney's leadership and now Art's leadership," Goodell said.

"That is certainly a consideration -- the ownership [of other clubs] wants to make sure this team is going to be run consistently with those principles, and if Dan Rooney wants an opportunity to continue to run the franchise, I think that's an interest that some of the owners have."

Three other owners -- the Saints' Tom Benson, the Bengals' Mike Brown and the Panthers' Jerry Richardson -- attended the meeting at Goodell's request.

Complex is how Goodell described the various issues swirling around the future of the Steelers' ownership. There is the desire of some of the brothers to sell to avoid costly future inheritance taxes for their children and grandchildren.

Then there is the need to comply with two NFL rules. One restricts owners' involvement in gambling enterprises, and the other requires that one person own at least 30 percent of a team. Some of the brothers own shares of racetracks that now offer casino gaming.

The Rooneys left the NFL offices without speaking to reporters after they and Goodell agreed the commissioner would serve as spokesman.

Asked if he believed the situation would be resolved by the end of the year, Goodell said, "I would hope so."

"But I think these are issues because of their complexity and because there's clear emotional issues here, we have to be patient but firm with respect to getting these resolved," he added.

A family source told the Post-Gazette that there was some optimism among the siblings after Tuesday's meeting that things would be worked out. The source also told the newspaper that the four brothers, in seeking to sell their shares, were not necessarily looking for the highest bidder, but wanted to ensure they were getting a good deal.

The Rooneys' late father, Art Sr., founded the Steelers in 1933. Dan Rooney was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2000. He has served on many influential league committees over the years and earned a reputation as a peacemaker in labor disputes.

Goodell noted that he, too, is one of five boys, so he can relate to the challenges faced by Dan, Art Jr., Tim, Pat and John Rooney.

"They have a love for one another and a respect for one another," Goodell said. "I'm sure they have differences, but I'm confident they're going to do what's in the best interests of the Rooney family, the Steelers and the NFL."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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