Art Rooney II is a fine man.
He’s the team president and co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He’s an attorney — a powerful one — at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.
He has a law degree from Duquesne and studied the complexities of European economics while in England.
He’s on the board of several noble organizations, as evidence by a flip through Whirl Magazine or any of those high-society publications where you don’t see a fundraiser without he and his wife, Greta, there.
Even as such, even as he’s an accomplished attorney, businessman and philanthropist, some close to him tell me he deeply values being the most regular guy and best family man he can be — perhaps his finest qualities.
I’m afraid, however, Rooney has found himself in a no-win situation; where there’s no way he can look good.
To wit: On Wednesday it was announced the NFL hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to conduct an independent investigation into the league’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence situation. New York Giants owner John Mara and Rooney will oversee the probe that will, commissioner Roger Goodell contends, have full cooperation from league personnel and full access to league records.
Mueller — much like George Mitchell and his report on steroids in baseball — will not have subpoena power. That said, anyone who speaks to Mueller, Rooney, Mara and/or investigators will do so wholly voluntarily.
That’s what will happen in the gathering and fact-finding portion of all of this. But what about when it is finished?
Aren’t there, really, just two clearly defined end-games here?
From my vantage there are …
1. Goodell greatly erred and it will lead to his end as commissioner OR
2. Goodell will be found to have acted on the up-and-up and the probe will find no improprieties by him.
That’s where Rooney is in his own no-win.
Let’s say the first hypothetical is true and the findings of the probe are that Goodell was grossly negligent and it leads to his end as czar of the NFL. This is the man who, ostensibly, Rooney’s father had the greatest impact on becoming commissioner.
We here in Pittsburgh would say Dan Rooney “vouched” for Goodell as commissioner.
And he did.
Remember, it was Dan Rooney who knocked on Goodell’s door at the NFL owner’s meeting in a Chicago hotel in 2006 to deliver Goodell the news that he had become commissioner.
Dan Rooney also said this to USAToday just after the appointment, an appointment in which he lobbied hard for Goodell: “I was looking for the best person to be commissioner, and I had no doubt in my mind that was Roger Goodell.”
Now Dan Rooney’s son could be part of the holy triumvirate — along with Mueller and Mara — to take Goodell down?
Man, this has the makings of some Francis Ford Coppola stuff.
And if Art II has to take Goodell down, it would give the appearance that his father made an unwise recommendation and choice as commissioner. That wouldn’t be a good look at all for the Rooneys.
That’s scenario one.
The next one is also clear — that the probe clears Goodell of any wrongdoings.
Can’t you hear the outcry already? I sure can.
A man as proper, honest and trustworthy as Art Rooney II will be accused of cronyism because of his ties — and the ties of his father — to Goodell.
The public at large will say the old boys’ club was working overtime and even if Rooney is unmistakably truthful in his findings of Goodell’s innocence, he will be accused of letting his pal off the hook.
What Art Rooney II is doing is honorable and, I’m certain, rooted in getting to the bottom of what happened then subsequently attempting to guarantee the integrity of the NFL is stronger moving forward.
But there is, simply, no-win here for him.
I’m wondering if recusing himself from this probe would have been the best plan.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.