Anti-cancer group breaks ties with Turning Stone, but SU basketball coach Jim Boeheim to continue fundraiser there
by Glenn Coin / The Post-Standard
Thursday September 17, 2009, 11:35 PM
Lauren Long / The Post-Standard
Jennine Yonta and Alan Andrews, both of Syracuse, get a kick out of having their photo taken with members of the Syracuse University men's basketball team during the Basket Ball, a fundraiser for Coaches vs. Cancer, held April 25 at Turning Stone Resort and Casino.
The annual Coaches vs. Cancer gala, one of the most prominent fund-raisers in Central New York, is in jeopardy because the American Cancer Society has decided to sever all ties with the Oneida Indian Nation.
The gala has been held at the nation's Turning Stone Resort and Casino for eight years. This year, it raised $325,000 for the cancer society.
The cancer society announced Thursday it will no longer deal with the Oneida nation because the tribe now produces its own cigarettes. The Post-Standard reported Thursday that the nation last year bought a cigarette factory in Erie County that produced 1.4 million cartons of off-brand cigarettes in 2008.
When Syracuse University men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim, who hosts the event, was told of the cancer society's decision by The Post-Standard, he laughed.
"Jim Boeheim will hold an event at Turning Stone next year, but it will be for somebody else," said Boeheim, a cancer survivor who sits on the national board of Coaches vs. Cancer. "It will be to benefit the kids of Syracuse or city schools."
Lauren Long / The Post-Standard
Jim Boeheim, accompanied by wife Juli, recaps this year's NCAA run with the Syracuse University men's basketball team for an audience of about 700 during the Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser, which was held April 25 at Turning Stone Resort and Casino.
» Read our previous coverage
The Cancer Society has been criticized for holding the fund-raiser at Turning Stone because the resort allows smoking and the nation sells more than a million cartons of cigarettes each year without charging state and local taxes. But making their own cigarettes puts the Oneidas in a new league, said Lisa Smith, regional vice president of the society's Central New York branch.
"In our eyes, by purchasing a manufacturing plant they have joined the ranks of Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds," Smith said. "We're facing a tax issue, and manufacturing cigarettes is almost going backwards."
The Oneidas, like other tribes, do not collect excise and sales taxes on cigarette sales. Those taxes discourage young people from taking up smoking and helps pay for health services for the poor, Smith said.
Smith said the Oneida nation is "preemptively evading a law the American Cancer Society has been working to get enforced - a law that would prohibit manufacturers from selling tobacco products to retailers who don't collect sales tax."
Boeheim said he disagreed with the cancer society's decision, but understands it. Turning Stone has been too good a partner to abandon, though, he said. "We raise $150,000 more there than any place else because they pay for the entertainment, they charge us nothing for the facility, and they give us a deal on the food," Boeheim said.
This year's gala and golf tournament raised a combined $600,000, he said. Expenses at Turning Stone amount to about 17 percent, vs. more than 40 percent at other venues, Boeheim said.
Cancer society spokeswoman Amy Delia said the organization has not talked with Boeheim yet about next year's event, generally held the last weekend in April. "We haven't gotten that far yet," she said.
Coaches vs. Cancer is a nationwide collaboration between the cancer society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The Oneida nation bought the cigarette plant last fall after the state Legislature passed a law designed to collect taxes on cigarettes sold by Indian tribes. The law requires manufacturers to certify that wholesalers pay the $27.50-per-carton excise tax before selling the cigarettes to retailers, including Indian tribes.
Contact Glenn Coin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 470-3251.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Although smoking is not popular anymore, the Oneida Tribe producing their own smokes seems lika a smart business thing to do. The fact that they help by providing their casino and give a good deal to charity should mean something. Are the Oneidas doing a good thing? What do you think?