January 30, 2008

Tribes enter big leagues

Native Americans nearly hosted Super Bowl XLIITribes have targeted most of their gaming revenue toward addressing social issues, among them poverty, diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse and a high dropout rate in school. But, said Billy Mills, a Sioux who came off the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to win gold in the 10,000 meters during the 1964 Olympics, the day isn't far off when Native Americans own a major sports franchise.

"Very realistically, you'll see that with a tribe or a business conglomerate of Native Americans," said Mills. "It's exciting. It's positive. I'm glad we have Native American entrepreneurs going into that area. In time it will happen. In the process, we cannot neglect addressing our youth. What we can't do as Native American entrepreneurs is fall prey to the only downfall of our free enterprise system, and that's profit at all costs. I see us on the verge of that at times."

The major pioneers in plunging gaming dollars into sports ownership are the Mohegans, who own the WNBA Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, Conn., and the arena in which the team plays; the Southern California Sycuan tribe and South Florida Seminoles, who both promote boxing; and the Yakama Indian Nation, which owns the Yakama (Wash.) Sun Kings of the Continental Basketball Association.

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