Bill Bidwill, who owned the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals for nearly five decades, died Wednesday, his family said. He was 88.
“Our dad passed away today the same way he lived his life: peacefully, with grace, dignity and surrounded by family and loved ones,” Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said. “Above all else, we will remember him as a man devoted to the three central pillars of his life – his immense faith, his love for his family and his life-long passion for the Cardinals and the sport of football.”
Bidwill and the Cardinals have been linked for much longer than just his time as owner. His father, Charles Bidwill, bought the team in 1932 when it was based in Chicago, and Bidwill served as a ball boy for the club as a child.
He later became the Cardinals’ vice president once he graduated from Georgetown University.
The team moved to St. Louis in 1960, and Bidwill became the sole owner of the franchise in 1972 after buying out his brother’s stake in the team. He moved the Cardinals to Arizona a decade later.
“Bill Bidwill was part of the NFL family his entire life, starting from his days as a ball boy through his time as an owner,” the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, said in a statement on the team’s website. “Although never one to seek the spotlight, Bill had an incredible sense of humor and he made extraordinary contributions to the NFL. Bill’s vision brought the Cardinals, the NFL and multiple Super Bowls to Arizona.”
“We extend our condolences to Bill’s family and the Cardinals organization, which along with his faith, meant so much to him,” Goodell added.
In 2004, under Bidwill’s stewardship, the Cardinals became the first team to have both a black general manager and head coach at the same time.
“Now you hear everybody talking about diversity and minority hires,” said Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald, according to ESPN. “Back when he first started doing it, that was not the norm. Obviously, I was a part of it with Rod Graves and Dennis Green when he hired the first general manager and head coach to work together at the same time; that was groundbreaking. Definitely before his time, and he was a forward-thinking person.”
“He didn’t care about the color of your skin or race or the gender; if he felt like you could do the job to the best of your ability to help us become better, then you were the right person for it,” Fitzgerald continued. “I think you’re starting to see that more often now, and he was doing it a long time ago.”
After Bidwill’s death, the Cardinals released a video narrated by Fitzgerald that paid tribute to the longtime owner.
Former Cardinals player and current Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu paid also respect to Bidwill on Twitter.
“You gave a young kid with off field issues a chance to play for your team,” he wrote. “Grateful & so thankful for that chance as it helped shape me as I am today. Thank you & Rest Well! Your legacy is cemented.”
Rod Graves, the former Cardinals general manager, called Bidwill a “friend and a teacher.”
“Mr. Bidwill was one of the greatest men I’ve known,” Graves said in a statement to the team. “He was more to me than just an employer. He was my friend and my teacher. I felt the support and encouragement that is rarely present in the workplace. He taught me how to be a better professional.”
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