Dolphins’ deal with Williams sisters announced

Serena and Venus Williams enjoyed a firsthand look at their favorite NFL team Tuesday.

The tennis-playing sisters paid a visit to the Miami Dolphins’ complex as the latest celebrities to own a small stake in the franchise. Their deal, first reported last week, was confirmed at a news conference overlooking the practice field.

The Williams sisters watched practice and met quarterback Chad Pennington and linebackers Jason Taylor and Joey Porter. The sisters live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., about an hour’s drive from the Dolphins’ stadium.

“To have this opportunity is really where our heart is,” Venus said. “We’re South Florida girls. When we get off the road, this is where we come home to. When we come home to Dolphins games, it’s going to be exciting.”

The sisters are the first female African-Americans to hold an ownership stake in an NFL franchise, the Dolphins said. The NFL has no African-American majority team owner.

Musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shares of the team. The Estefans are the first Cuban Americans to hold an ownership stake in an NFL team, and Anthony is a New York native of Puerto Rican descent.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has also forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett. The Dolphins say the involvement of the celebrities reflects the diversity of South Florida and shows that the franchise is connected with the community.

“We are thrilled to have Venus and Serena join the Dolphins as limited partners,” Ross said. “They are among the most admired athletes in the world and have become global ambassadors for the game of tennis. Their addition to our ownership group further reflects our commitment to connect with aggressively and embrace the great diversity that makes South Florida a multicultural gem.”

Serena has won 11 major titles and Venus seven. They staged their latest sibling showdown last month at Wimbledon, where Serena beat Venus in the final, and will play in the U.S. Open beginning next week.

Ross, a New York real estate billionaire, completed his purchase of the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga in January and began a partnership in May with Buffett. The agreement with the Estefans was announced in June, followed by the deal with Anthony last month.

Buffett and the Estefans are longtime Dolphins fans. The Williams sisters said they root for the Dolphins, and Serena dated former NFL players LaVar Arrington and Keyshawn Johnson.

“We’re just really excited to be a part of such a wonderful franchise,” Serena said. “We obviously love the Dolphins. For us it was an honor to have an opportunity to be co-owners. We thought, ‘Wow, this is a great opportunity for us.'”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.