AP source: Tennis-playing Williams sisters to be part owners of Dolphins

MIAMI -- Venus and Serena Williams have found a new sport: professional football.

The tennis-playing sisters will become the latest celebrities to own a stake in the Miami Dolphins, a person familiar with the deal said Wednesday. The person didn't want to be identified because the team plans an announcement Tuesday.

Another person close to the negotiations said an agreement was near but not yet final. That person also didn't want to be identified because the announcement hasn't be made.

"There have been preliminary talks, and hopefully it'll work out," Serena Williams said Wednesday night after a 6-3, 6-2 win over Yaroslava Shvedova in Toronto. "That would be a great opportunity for both of us. You never know. We'll see what happens."

The Williamses live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., about an hour's drive from the Dolphins' stadium. Their new role is significant in part because the NFL has no African-American majority team owners.

Musicians Gloria Estefan, Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shares of the team. New Dolphins owner Stephen Ross also forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett.

The Dolphins have said the involvement of the celebrities reflects the diversity of South Florida and shows that the franchise is connected with the community.

"There's always so many opportunities out there, and Venus and I are always trying to expand our brand and do the best that we can do, and if an opportunity presents itself, we would love to see where it can take us," Serena Williams said. "Who knows what's going to happen, but hopefully we'll be able to hopefully continue to expand our brand."

A Dolphins spokesman said the team had no comment regarding next week's announcement.

The Williams sisters have combined to win 18 Grand Slam titles, and they staged their latest sibling showdown last month at Wimbledon, where Serena beat Venus in the final. Serena has won 11 major titles and Venus seven.

Ross, a New York real estate billionaire, completed his purchase of the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga in January. Ross began a partnership in May with Buffett, and 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, but the Williams sisters aren't known to closely follow the team or the NFL.

Ross has said the minority owners are strategic partners and aren't being brought aboard because of a financial need. He has pledged to improve the fan experience at games, and the celebrities will help -- although it's unlikely the sisters will be staging tennis exhibitions at halftime.

Buffett has yet to accept Ross' invitation to become a minority owner, but the Dolphins' stadium has been renamed Land Shark Stadium for this season in a marketing deal with him. Buffett has written a song for the Dolphins, and the team has introduced a new version of its fight song by rapper T-Pain.

Anthony will perform the national anthem when the Dolphins host the New York Jets on ESPN's Monday Night Football on Oct. 12.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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