Estefans' minority ownership of Dolphins is music to the team's ears

MIAMI -- As a teenager, Gloria Estefan would lie on her car and listen to South Florida football fans celebrate the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. Next season, she'll be able to follow the team from the owners' box.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross introduced Estefan and her husband, producer Emilio Estefan, as minority owners of the franchise on Thursday. Gloria Estefan, a seven-time Grammy winner who came to the United States at age 2 when her family fled Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro's revolution, said she is a "hardcore" sports fan and excited to join her hometown team.

"Don't worry, we will not be calling any plays," she said. "There was concern about that. And Emilio will not be playing quarterback."

With the deal, the Estefans became one of the few Hispanics and the first Cuban-Americans to hold an ownership stake in an NFL team. Ross, who is white, said he wants the franchise to reflect the diversity of South Florida and sports fans across the country.

"Surveys reflect the power of the Hispanic population of the United States," said Ross, a New York real-estate billionaire. "To have them as owners, it's timely, it's right and it's good for this community."

Ross completed his purchase of the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga in January, and the deal with the Estefans is his second with South Florida celebrities in recent months. Ross also began a partnership in May with Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville enterprise, which includes Land Shark Lager.

Buffett has yet to accept Ross' invitation to become a minority owner, but the Dolphins' stadium has been renamed Land Shark Stadium for the 2009 season. Buffett wrote a song for the team and will be featured at tailgate parties, Ross has said.

"I think it's all about creating a great game-day experience," Ross said. "You want to encourage families to come to games and make it an exciting place to be. ... I think you're seeing the convergence of sports and entertainment because sports is entertainment."

Gloria Estefan, who has sold more than 90 million records, has had hits as a solo artist and with Miami Sound Machine, which brought a blend of Latin and pop to the United States with hits such as "Conga" and "Rhythm is Gonna Get You." Emilio Estefan also has produced for artists including Shakira and Ricky Martin.

"What do we have to do with football? It's not just football, it's the Dolphins," Gloria Estefan said. "It's our community. It's the place where we live and love. It's people that have supported us through the years in our careers. So whatever we can do to be a part of that support for the Dolphins, then that's what we're going to do."

The Estefans, who were presented with personalized Dolphins jerseys at the bilingual press conference, said they would like to contribute to the music and entertainment at Land Shark Stadium, but they didn't specify exactly what their roles would be. Gloria Estefan already has recorded a version of the Monday Night Football opening theme song with Hank Williams Jr., which will air before the Dolphins' Oct. 12 game against the New York Jets.

"Music and sports go together, what can I tell you?" she said. "It's a great combo."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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