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ASU AD Ray Anderson receives NFL leadership awards

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TEMPE – When ASU fans see Ray Anderson, they see the school’s athletic director. They see the man who gives out awards.

Anderson was on the receiving end Super Bowl Week when he was honored with two NFL leadership awards – the Paul J. Tagliabue Award from the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation and the John Wooten Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It’s really an honor and humbling to have folks that you admire and respect so much say, ‘Hey, job well done,’ ” he said.

According to the organization, the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation aims to increase access and opportunity for minorities interested in coaching, front office and scouting positions in the National Football League.

The Tagliabue Award is presented “to an individual who represents the commitment to fairness, equality and excellence that Commissioner Tagliabue exemplified during his tenure with the NFL.”

Anderson was originally against the Fritz Pollard Alliance because, in 2002, it came together with a strategy to sue the NFL. Anderson was working with the NFL at the time and did not like the alliance’s direction.

“I didn’t like the saber rattling position that was early on,” Anderson said. “It took them some time to convince me that no, we really don’t have a desire and intent to file a lawsuit against the NFL. Instead our desire is to cajole the NFL, convince the NFL to sit down and talk intelligently.

“Once I was convinced that was really the strategy, I was all in.”

Cyrus Mehri, a co-founder of the alliance, said he never had to work harder to get the NFL to join the alliance. Once he got Anderson on his side, he was thrilled.

“He exudes excellence in everything he does,” Mehri said. “He made up his mind to be a champion for diversity and inclusion inside this league and to stand for integrity and stand for excellence.”

Wendy Lewis, a senior vice president for diversity in Major League Baseball also received the Tagliabue Award.

Anderson also received the Wooten lifetime achievement honor this week. A letter addressed to Anderson from representatives of the John Wooten Leadership Awards cited Anderson as a “beacon in the sports industry, singing insight on outstanding leadership and commitment to improving your community and serving others throughout your distinguished career.’’