Muslims in New York are celebrating the appointment of Robert Salah as the first Muslim head coach for the National Football League’s (NFL) New York Jets.
“It’s something that shows the growing diversity of our nation, the inclusion we’re trying to achieve at all levels of our society,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, AP News reported.
“And I think it’s a very positive sign.”
Salah, 41, is the son of Lebanese parents. He grew up in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, which is home to the largest Muslim population in the United States per capita.
“I think he’s just a trailblazer for a lot of coaches who are Muslim, to let them know that they do have a chance to be a head coach,” said Lions offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, a practicing Muslim who has played in the NFL for eight seasons — including his first two with the Jets.
“He shows them you do have a chance to be a defensive coordinator, you do have a chance to grow up and have a job at the professional level,” Aboushi added.
“As long as you’re professional and you’re passionate about it like he is, I think a lot of people will look to him as a trailblazer. As far as everyone feeling like they could do it themselves and it’s an attainable dream.”
Muslims in NFL
NFL already has many active Muslim players achieving their dreams and inspiring younger generations.
Ameer Abdullah, with the Minnesota Vikings, Oday Aboushi, currently with the Detroit Lions, Mohamed Sanu, currently with the San Francisco 49ers, and Muhammad Wilkerson, currently a free agent.
Other players include Hamza Abdullah, former safety for the Cleveland Browns, Husain Abdullah, with the Minnesota Vikings, Az-Zahir Hakim, the St. Louis Rams, Ryan Harris and others.
Reaching an agreement with the Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, president Hymie Elhai and general manager Joe Douglas, Salah is expected to be introduced next week by the Jets.
His new role will be an inspiration to many young Muslim youth.
“As a pioneer in the sports world, Saleh will serve as an inspiration to many young American Muslims,” Selaedin Maksut, the executive director of CAIR’s New Jersey chapter, said.
“In addition to the positive impact that he’ll have on Muslims, Saleh’s presence in the field and on the screen will remind the rest of America that Muslims are a part of the fabric of this nation and proudly contribute to society. It’s a step toward tearing down walls and building bridges.
“Welcome to Jersey, brother!”
Saleh is believed to be the third Arab American to become a head coach in the NFL. He follows Abe Gibron, who led Chicago from 1972-74, and Rich Kotite, who coached the Eagles (1991-94) and Jets (1995-96).
He is also the fourth active NFL head coach who is a minority.
“Robert Saleh has made history on the field and off,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Friday night.
“Now he’s knocking down barriers in our own backyard. Congrats, Coach!”