PITTSBURGH -- Several Pittsburgh Steelers applauded the NBA for imposing a lifetime ban on Donald Sterling in the wake of the racist comments the league says the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers made in a recorded conversation.
The controversy, which transcended sports, prompted players such as defensive end Cameron Heyward to express how much they appreciate playing for the Rooney family, which has owned the Steelers since their inception in 1933.
"I’m very blessed and humbled to be part of an organization that values their workers," Heyward said on Tuesday, shortly before NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the Sterling ban. "It’s just an unfortunate situation with what’s going on out there. A lot of organizations can learn from it and just grow from it."
Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum said Silver did the right thing in taking a hard line against Sterling.
"I think it was needed," Beachum said. "What [Sterling] did was not right and was very disappointing. If I was a player for him I would be very disappointed to know that my owner spoke like that, especially being of African-American descent."
When asked if the controversy showed the contrast between Sterling and Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney, Beachum chuckled.
"It’s not even a comparison," the third-year veteran said. "Ever since I’ve known the Rooneys they’ve been cordial. You never hear anything that’s negative in any way. Any man that can come up and shake your hand and talk to you and have a great relationship with you, and you know genuinely that’s how he feels, that’s a great thing. I’ve had that with [Dan Rooney and Steelers president Art Rooney II]."
Dan Rooney is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he has long been at the forefront of promoting diversity in the NFL. He pushed for a requirement enacted in 2003 that requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring a general manager or head coach, and it is commonly known as the Rooney Rule.
Veteran wide receiver Lance Moore played the previous nine seasons in New Orleans before signing with the Steelers last month.
He said he is fortunate to have played for an owner like Tom Benson in New Orleans and now for the Rooney family.
“Tom Benson did things the right way. He made sure his players were taken care of, and the players in turn played hard for him,” Moore said. “The Rooneys, from the short time I’ve been here as well as what I’ve heard about them, they are awesome. They are all about their players and their organization and doing things the right way.”