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Six African-American top executives of NFL teams, two African-American head coaches and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagilabue were honored at a unique event during Super Bowl Week in Indianapolis. The Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation honored these trailblazers in at the 7th Annual Johnnie Cochran “Salute to Excellence Awards, held at Eastern Star Church.  The Fritz Pollard Alliance is an organization of NFL executives and others who work to increase access and opportunities for minorities interested in coaching, front office and scouting positions in the National Football League.

The Alliance is an outgrowth of efforts by the late Johnnie Cocrhan who pressu who, with others, pressured the NFL for better minority inclusion. That resulted in the Rooney Rule, created by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney which requires NFL teams to interview minorities for head coaching and top executive positions.  Rooney, currently American Ambassador to Ireland, also attended the event.

Honored at the event was former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue who is the first recpient of an annual award in his name.

African-American NFL executives honored were: Sheldon White, VP/Pro personnell and Martin Mayhew General Manager Detroit Lions; Reggie McKenzie, General Manager Oakland Raiders; Rick Smith Exec VP/General Manager Houston Texans, Ozzie Newsome GM/Executive VP Baltimore Ravens and Rick Smith Sr VP/General Manager New York Giants.

Two head coaches, Cincinnati Bengals Marvin Lewis and Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin were also honored.

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