Native Village
Youth and Education news
January 2010 Volume 4

Opening the doors wide for Native athletes
Legal team starts advocacy, wants to level the playing field for Olympic and professional hopefuls
By Richard Walker\
Condensed by Native Village

Seattle, WA:   For any athlete in a rural area, the biggest obstacle to success can be exposure. That fact applies to American Indians on reservations. Deserving Native athletes often lack the mainstream attention that leads to scholarships, being scouted, and the advocacy that’s needed along the way.

“The door has never been opened wide enough for Indian athletes,” said Tex Hall, former chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes and the National Congress of American Indians. “Indians can’t get to the pros competing in places like Bismarck, N.D.; unless our youth have financial backing, they won’t make it.”

A new initiative intends to change that.

Tribal representatives from Arizona, California, North Dakota and Washington state met in May for the first Tribal Sports Law & Business Conference. Their goal: to encourage Native governments to invest in sports and exposure for their athletes, and to support young athletes wishing to advance their sports careers.

The Conference also addressed tribal expansion into sports ownership. Since tribal councils are sovereign governments, they they can establish athletic commissions that regulate sports on their land. They can also license and supervise athletes, coaches and promoters. Major inroads have already been made:

The Tachi Yokut Tribe owns an Arena Football League team.
The Mohegan Tribe owns the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
Curt Styres, Mohawk, owns the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League and the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League.
The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation owns a boxing promotion company and has been a major sponsor of the San Diego Padres since 1995.
The Oneida Indian Nation of New York’s Atunyote Golf Club has hosted a PGA tournament since 2007.
The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and the Puyallup Tribe have hosted HBO and Showtime boxing.
The Seminole Tribe promoted the Seminole Classic Bull Riding Championships on ESPN.

The next Tribal Sports Law & Business Conference conference is planned for spring 2010 in Phoenix.

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