NEW YORK -- Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was honored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation with its ROBIE Humanitarian Award on Monday night.
Tagliabue received the award at the foundation's annual black tie dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. He was recognized for his commitment to diversity, inclusion, the pursuit of higher education and his contributions to the NFL and numerous nonprofit organizations. He currently serves as the chairman of the board at Georgetown University.
Tagliabue appointed the first diversity committee of NFL owners in 2002, resulting in the Rooney Rule that mandates at least one minority candidate be interviewed for head coaching and senior front office vacancies.
"I can't speak for everyone," New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese said, "but for Mr. Tagliabue as commissioner to go out on a limb and break down some walls for me and other minorities in all sports, I can never thank him enough. He more than deserves this award."
Tagliabue also was praised by Marc Morial, the former mayor of New Orleans and current president and CEO of the National Urban League.
"I worked with him after 9-11 when we had to push back the date of the Super Bowl at the Superdome on very short notice," Morial said. "It wasn't an easy thing for the NFL, but Paul knew how important the economic and emotional impact of having the game there was to our city and he worked it out.
"Likewise, after Hurricane Katrina severely damaged New Orleans, he made sure that the Saints stayed in our city and not move permanently anywhere else. As a New Orleans native, I think we should erect a statue of Paul Tagliabue on Canal Street because he helped save the New Orleans Saints for our city and state."
Rachel Robinson, the widow of the Hall of Famer who broke major league baseball's color barrier, and their daughter Sharon shared the dais with Tagliabue.
Previous Robie Award winners include baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, MLB commissioner Bud Selig and the late tennis great Arthur Ashe.