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PPNS director discusses latest book, “The Color of Sundays”

By Jon Andreassi, Point Park News Service:

Few are aware of the man who helped the Pittsburgh Steelers embrace diversity to build a historic team during a time of extreme racial tension.

“The Color of Sundays,” a new book by Andrew Conte, a Tribune-Review investigative reporter and director of the Point Park News Service, explores how National Football League talent scout Bill Nunn Jr. recruited players from the then-uncharted territory of black colleges in order to build a championship team.

Point Park News Service Director Andy Conte addresses the audience about his new book, "The Color of Sundays." Photo by Courtney Giles, Point Park News Service.
Point Park News Service Director Andy Conte addresses the audience about his new book, “The Color of Sundays.” Photo by Courtney Giles, Point Park News Service.

“What made his story unique was that all along, he had a front row seat to the Civil Rights era as it was unfolding,” Conte said. “He spent so much time working as a sports reporter, identifying the best black college football players in the country, he was able to do that for the Steelers as well. (Nunn identified) a number of athletes that other professional teams couldn’t see because these guys were black and they were at black schools. The scouts didn’t really know how to go into the schools and identify talented players.”

Conte spoke at an event, hosted by the Point Park News Service, at Point Park University. He went into detail about how the book came together, and opened up the floor for questions following the presentation.

During the event, Conte explained how Nunn, originally a sports reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier, pushed back against the book when originally approached for the project about four years ago.

“He was reluctant to put himself at the forefront of history,” said Lynell Nunn, Bill Nunn’s daughter who was in attendance at the event.

Nunn came around, though, and throughout the process, he challenged Conte to find the stories and learn about the people involved in the Civil Rights Movement who are discussed in the book.

“Nunn really pushed me to learn more about the history of black athletes and Civil Rights, and all these other people who had come along before him and really pushed to make sports and American life what it is today,” Conte said.

Conte spoke about his book and how it is not only a testament to the Steelers franchise, but how it also showcases the discrimination that African-Americans faced all over the country at that time including right in Pittsburgh. Photo by Courtney Giles, Point Park News Service.
Conte spoke about his book and how it is not only a testament to the Steelers franchise, but how it also showcases the discrimination that African-Americans faced all over the country at that time including right in Pittsburgh. Photo by Courtney Giles, Point Park News Service.

While “The Color of Sundays” is ultimately about Nunn and the dominant Steelers franchise he helped to create, it is set within the context of American culture at that point in history. It delves into many different stories to establish the state of race relations and examines

“People looking at it as a straight Steelers’ book might be disappointed,” Conte said.

While Nunn never got to read the finished product, as he passed away in May 2014 after suffering a stroke, his family is more than pleased with how the book turned out.

“He was there for so much of black history,” Lynell Nunn said. “Andy was wonderful about weaving that all into the book. It really caught the essence of my dad.”

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