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A famed football name signs on with Barack Obama

April 14, 2008 | 11:34 am

Add one of the first families of professional football -- the Rooneys of Pittsburgh -- to the list of clans (most obviously, the Kennedys) riven by this year's presidential campaign.

Dan Rooney (pictured at right), owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and son of the team's founder, Art Rooney, today came Dan Rooney owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team backs Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama of Illnois out foursquare for Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential race. The endorsement no doubt was in the works before clamor broke out over Obama's small-town America remarks but, given the extra problems those words seem to have created for him as Pennsylvania's April 22 primary nears, the nod from Rooney is well-timed.

“True sports fans know that you support your team even when they are the underdogs,” Rooney, 75, said in a statement that now may resonate more than ever for the Obama forces in Pennsylvania. “Barack Obama is the underdog here but it is with great pride that I join his team.”

Rooney, like others who have lined up behind him, cited his influence on youth. "As a grandfather and a citizen of this community, I think Barack Obama’s thoughtful, strategic approach is important to America," Rooney said. "When I hear how excited young people seem to be when they talk about this man, I believe he will do what is best for them, which is to inspire them to be great Americans."

But don't look for one of Rooney's sons to follow his lead. Tom Rooney, a lawyer, is among the Republican candidates vying for the chance to oppose Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney in Florida's 16th District.

That's the once-safe GOP seat that its longtime incumbent, Mark Foley, was forced to give up just before the 2006 midterm election when it was discovered that his interest in congressional pages was a wee bit over the top.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press