Disney’s Basketball Team Just Switched Sides to DeSantis

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Credit: Inside the Magic

A professional sports team with deep ties to the Walt Disney Company has been discovered to be donating thousands of dollars to the presidential campaign of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is currently in two different lawsuits with the iconic media company.

Ron DeSantis
Credit: WikiMedia

The conflict between Disney and Ron DeSantis has been brewing for months but, put most simply, was triggered by former CEO Bob Chapek’s delayed response to Florida’s HB 1557: Parental Rights in Education bill, popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Governor DeSantis responded to Disney’s stance against his much-promoted bill by stripping Disney’s authority over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special tax district that the House of Mouse had effectively governed for decades. It is now known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and is controlled by a board handpicked by the governor.

Related: Disney States Ron DeSantis Is a Major Threat to Business

Now, there are competing Federal and state lawsuits between Disney and DeSantis, who is simultaneously running for U.S. President. That’s where the Orlando Magic comes in.

Orlando Magic
Credit: Matt Stroshane, Disney/Orlando Magic

Orland Magic Disney Sponsorship

At the beginning of the 2022/2023 NBA season, the Orlando Magic organization and the Walt Disney Company renewed their community sponsorship agreement.

Basically, the two have a mutually beneficial relationship in which the basketball team prominently features Disney (down to Mickey Mouse emblems on player uniforms), and the House of Mouse supports the Orlando Magic in more nebulous but presumably profitable ways.

Disney DeSantis
Credit: NBA

In that sense, the Orlando Magic organization and Disney are partners. So why was the team discovered to have donated $50,000 to Never Back Down Inc., a political action committee supporting Ron DeSantis, Disney’s foe?

Disney, DeSantis, DeVos

The Orlando Magic NBA team is owned by the Republican-connected DeVos family; at one point, Betsy DeVos served as Secretary of Education under Donald Trump, another one of Ron DeSantis’ current adversaries.

Betsy Devos wikimedia
Betsy DeVos
Credit: Wikimedia

As such, it is not surprising that the DeVos family would donate to a prominent GOP politician, but Federal Election Commission records show that the donation was listed as being from the sports organization itself, not the DeVos family. Additionally, it may be the first time that an NBA team, rather than an owner or member of the organization, has been listed as a donor to a Super PAC.

Even more interestingly, the DeVos family responded to journalist Judd Legum’s query about the Orland Magic donation (via a spokesperson) by saying, “To clarify, this gift was given before Governor DeSantis entered the presidential race… It was given as a Florida business in support of a Florida governor for the continued prosperity of Central Florida.”

However, the Never Back Down PAC was specifically organized to support DeSantis’ presidential campaign and lists itself as such, not to benefit Central Florida in any way.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Credit: Ron DeSantis

Continued Disney-DeSantis Battles

At the very least, the Orlando Magic’s complex stance as a Disney partner and a DeSantis donor raises some odd questions about where it stands.

Related: Disney Officially Beat Ron DeSantis This Week

Currently, the lawsuits between Disney and DeSantis are both pending, while the governor appears eager to move on from the fray and combat other iconic American brands like Bud Light. Maybe they will end up supporting Disney somehow.

Should professional sports teams donate to Super Pac? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.

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