EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – Ann Mara, the matriarch of the NFL’s New York Giants for the past 60 years, has died. She was 85.
Giants co-owner John Mara announced his mother’s death on Super Bowl Sunday. Ann Mara slipped in front of her home in Rye, New York, during an ice storm two weeks ago and was hospitalized with a head injury the following day. While there were initial hopes for recovery, John Mara said, complications developed and she died early Sunday surrounded by her family.
Ann Mara and her children owned 50 percent of the Giants, one of the founding families of the league, since the death of her husband, Hall of Famer Wellington Mara, in 2005. While she was not active in daily operations, her opinion was valued greatly.
“Mrs. Mara was a tower of strength, dignity and inspiration for her family and all of us in the NFL,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Her family and the Giants organization have always reflected Mrs. Mara’s competitive spirit, integrity, and wonderful sense of humor. Our thoughts and prayers are with John Mara and the entire Mara family.”
Ann Mara was a prominent philanthropist who supported educational organizations. Mara also helped children with cancer through the Ronald McDonald House of New York. In November, she dedicated the opening of a new building for the San Miguel Academy for children at risk, which was built through the NFL Snowflake Foundation.
Three days before MetLife Stadium – the home of the Giants and Jets – was the site of the Super Bowl last year, Ann Mara received the Paul J. Tagliabue Award of Excellence. It is presented to a league or team executive who demonstrates the integrity and leadership that he exhibited in career development opportunities for minority candidates and advocacy for diversity on the league and club level when he was NFL commissioner.
“She has been the leader of our family in every way, and we will miss her dearly,” John Mara said.
Married to Wellington Mara in 1954 after a chance meeting in a Roman Catholic church, Ann Mara attended almost every Giants home and away game. She was a fierce defender of the team.
After the Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers in the 2011 NFC Championship game en route to their fourth Super Bowl title, she approached Fox broadcaster and Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, poking his arm to get his attention.
“You never pick the Giants,” Ann Mara said.
Bradshaw turned toward the camera and said, “I know. I know. I’m sorry. I’m getting hammered for not picking the Giants.”
Ann Mara, sometimes referred to as “The First Lady of Football,” also let her sons know how she felt. Three of them work in the Giants’ front office. Along with John, Chris is the senior vice president of player evaluation and Frank is the vice president of community relations.
She used to like to remind John Mara that “you’re an employee.'”
When the Giants missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year this past season, John Mara, who serves as president and chief executive, was asked how his mother felt.
“She is not very happy with me right now, believe me,” John Mara said. “She suffers through this probably even more so than I do. I am on notice as well.”
Current and former Giants players reacted to the death on social media.
“Rest in Peace Mrs. Mara. My prayers also for The Mara family. What a great woman!!!!” wrote current Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck, a member of the 2008 and 2012 Giants Super Bowl champions.
Giants safety Antrel Rolle called Ann Mara an angel and a blessing in his five years with the team.
“I absolutely love this woman! She had a smile that would brighten anyone’s day. She was our fighter & backbone,” Rolle tweeted.
Born Ann Mumm in New York City on June 18, 1929, Mara is survived by 11 children, 43 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. One of her grandchildren, Chris’ daughter Rooney Mara, was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in 2012.
Funeral plans are pending.