Arab American makes NFL coaching history

Robert Saleh, the son of Lebanese parents, has his work cut out for him with the New York Jets

FILE - San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is shown during an NFL football game against Arizona Cardinals, in Santa Clara, Calif., in this Sept. 13, 2020, file photo. The search for a new coach continues for the New York Jets after they completed an in-person interview with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, without apparently reaching a deal.(AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)
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The New York Jets American football team has named Robert Saleh as its new head coach, making him the first Muslim American to serve in such a role in the history of the NFL.

Mr Saleh, 41, the energetic and popular defensive co-ordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, was named by the Jets on Thursday as the replacement for Adam Gase, who was fired this month after a dismal season.

The move makes Mr Saleh the first Muslim-American head coach of an NFL team and the third Arab-American head coach, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) said in a statement.

“He has shown that Arab Americans can excel at any level and in any field,” the ADC said in a statement.

“He serves as a role model for young Arab Americans, showing them that with hard work, commitment and dedication, they can achieve their goals.”

He follows two Arab-American trailblazers that have coached NFL teams — Abe Gibron of the Chicago Bears and Rich Kotite of the Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles, the ADC said.

Mr Saleh, the son of Lebanese parents, hails from Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the largest Arab-American communities in the US.

The married father of six has his work cut out for him with the Jets. The team has not qualified for the playoffs since 2010.

“The @nyjets got a great one!” tweeted San Francisco 49ers player Richard Sherman.

Fred Warner, another San Francisco 49ers player, praised Mr Saleh’s coaching chops.

“He makes sure there’s no grey area in terms of coaching and teaching,” said Mr Warner.

“There’s a lot of coaches out there who just coach. But he’s a great teacher.”