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Bill Bidwell, owner of NFL's Arizona Cardinals dies

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Los Angeles (AFP)

Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, who enjoyed a lifelong connection with the NFL team his father bought in 1932, died on Wednesday at the age of 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 in a statement, which did not give a specific cause of death.

"We are overwhelmed by the support our family has received, not only now but throughout the latest chapter of his life. We are especially grateful to the nurses, doctors and other caregivers whose endless kindness and compassion in recent years have made our dad's life so meaningful."

"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."

Bill Bidwill became sole owner of the Cardinals in 1972, taking over a family business. His father, Charles Bidwill, bought the Chicago Cardinals in 1932 and as a youngster Bill Bidwill served as a ball boy for the club.

After a stint in the Navy, Bidwill went to work for the club full time in 1960, the team's first in St. Louis. As owner, he moved the franchise to Arizona in 1988.

Bidwill was a key promoter of diversity in front office staff, hiring the first black woman executive in NFL history as well as the league's first black contract negotiator.

He made Dennis Green and Rod Graves the first black head coach-general manager duo in the NFL and in 2015 the Cardinals established the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship to promote and increase diversity on their coaching staff.

Bidwill's wife, Nancy, died in August of 2016. He is survived by his five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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