NBPA condemns Orlando Magic for making donation to Ron DeSantis

The Orlando Magic have been under fire this week, and it’s a mess entirely of their owners’ making. On Tuesday news emerged that the Magic had donated $50,000 to the Super PAC for Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign.

Team owners supporting presidential candidates is nothing new, however it’s exceedingly rare to see a team use its money to support a candidate. It’s also important to note who owns the Magic: The DeVos family, known conservative donors who supported Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. Betsy DeVos would eventually go on to become Secretary of Education, despite having a background in business, and no experience in education.

The Magic’s donation to DeSantis got more attention when Larry Nance tweeted his condemnation of the team’s decision.

This was followed on Thursday by a statement from the NBA Players Association, which outlined that by using team funds rather than their personal wealth, the DeVos family misrepresented support of DeSantis’ campaign from Magic players themselves.

It’s the NBPA’s position that in order to make a political contribution at a franchise level team governors should consider the “diverse values and perspectives of staff and players” before making such a move. Something the DeVos family clearly didn’t in making their $50K donation.

The Magic claim their donation to DeSantis wasn’t for his presidential campaign, but rather an amorphous general donation for “the continued prosperity of Central Florida.”

This is semantics, at best, as prior to DeSantis officially announcing his candidacy it was a widely held belief he would be doing so. In addition, as some of the most influential donors inside the GOP the DeVos family would have known the governors intentions of running ahead of time.

DeSantis has an icy repution with the NBA outside of the Magic owners. Dwyane Wade, arguably the biggest NBA star in the history of the state, announced he was moving his family out of Florida earlier this year — largely due to a lack of acceptance and safety for Wade’s daughter Zaya, who is transgender. DeSantis has been at the forefront of a culture war against the LGBTQ+ community, banning gender affirming care and the use of personal pronouns in schools. In addition to Wade, Heat veteran Udonis Haslem was critical of DeSantis ahead of the 2023 NBA Finals, saying that he didn’t represent all of Florida.

To further complicate matters it’s unclear how the Magic’s donation to DeSantis will impact their business partnership with Disney. The iconic Orlando-based entertainment brand has had an endorsement deal with the team since 2010, and became its official jersey sponsor in 2017.

Disney has had numerous run ins with DeSantis in recent years, which began with the passage of the Parental Rights In Education Act, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Disney responded to the bill by initially saying they wouldn’t address the bill, before changing tact and denouncing the decision by the Florida legislature.

As a result DeSantis repealed Disney’s right to governmental autonomy in the state, absorbing Walt Disney World into the state of Florida, and regaining control of governance — which hadn’t been in place since 1967. Disney is in the process of suing DeSantis for the move, while the governor continues to exert his control over the area. As recently as this week DeSantis eliminated diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the resort area.

It’s safe to say the Magic’s decision to back DeSantis directly using team funds will continue to have fallout as this process unfolds. At this time neither the NBA itself, nor the Orlando Magic have made a statement about the NBPA’s response.

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