Blank Foundation funds diversity fellowship in honor of Tagliabue

CANTON, Ohio – Falcons owner Arthur Blank, through the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, will fund the Black College Hall of Fame Fellowship in honor of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to promote diversity throughout football.

Tagliabue is being enshrined Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2020 centennial class.

The James Harris-Doug Williams Fellowship, which provides a post-graduate opportunity at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to a recent college graduate from an accredited Historically Black College and University (HBCU), will be endowed for two years in Tagliabue’s honor.

Increased career advancement and diversity in football were efforts Tagliabue promoted. He was NFL commissioner when the league adopted the “Rooney Rule.”

“The Rooney Rule addressed issues at the coaching level,” Tagliabue said recently. “But those issues go beyond issues for coaches. I had the good fortune of taking over as commissioner the same year Art Shell became the first Black head coach in the league since the 1920s. Art set a standard that others like Dennis Green and Tony Dungy followed.

“We didn’t achieve enough progress on that issue for coaching, and I think the same can be said about non-coaching positions in the front office and other areas – not just for ethnic or racial minorities, but for women as well.”

Blank was an original member of the league’s Rooney Rule committee.

“(It) is impossible to measure what Paul Tagliabue has meant to me and our entire Atlanta Falcons family,” Blank said. “From the very first steps of buying the team right up until today, commissioner Tagliabue has been a cherished friend, mentor and confidant, and I know he was the same to the Smith family during their stewardship of the Falcons.”

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