The Orlando Magic has outraged LGBTQ+ leaders by donating thousands of dollars to a super PAC backing Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambitions.
Never Back Down released its first fundraising report this week, disclosing for the first time that the NBA team donated $50,000 to the group. Orlando LGBTQ+ advocates voiced anger at the revelation, which they say is a betrayal of the social values the NBA team publicly upholds.
“The Orlando Magic needs to make it make sense,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, an out Democrat running for Florida Senate. “On one side, they host Pride night. They march in Pride celebrations and they claim to support equality, inclusion, and anti-racism. And then on the other hand, they donate $50,000 to a presidential campaign who is running against the existence of LGBTQ people and who is trying to promote the idea that there's personal benefits to slavery.
“These two ideas cannot exist at the same time. The Orlando Magic needs to pick a side. Are they on the side of equality and inclusion? Or are they on the side of hatred and bigotry and Ron DeSantis?”
The team notably is owned by the DeVos family, longtime Republican donors who have supported groups opposed to marriage equality. Richard DeVos, Jr., the son of late team founder and Amway founder Richard DeVos, ran for Governor of Michigan as a Republican in 2006, and his wife Betsy DeVos served as President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education. Betsy DeVos notably resigned from Trump’s administration after the January 6 insurrection.
Still, it’s unusual for a team to make political contributions. The money given to Never Back Down came from Orlando Magic Ltd., not any member of the DeVos family. In fact, no contributions from anyone named DeVos were reported by the super PAC.
Magic spokesman Joel Glass told the Orlando Sentinel the donation went to the campaign before DeSantis filed for President.
“To clarify, this gift was given before Gov. DeSantis entered the presidential race,” Glass said. “It was given as a Florida business in support of a Florida governor for the continued prosperity of Central Florida.”
But while Glass claims the check was written on May 19, Never Back Down’s campaign reports show it was donated on Jun 26. DeSantis filed to run for president on May 24. Regardless, Never Back Down since its formation earlier this year always billed itself as an independent committee supporting DeSantis as the best candidate to challenge President Joe Biden.
In March, the Magic hosted a Pride Night, which included a performance by the Orlando Gay Chorus and by out DJ MK. The team was also a silver-level sponsor for Come Out With Pride Orlando, the community’s Pride organization.
In 2016, the NBA team honored the victims of the Pulse shooting, the deadliest attack in U.S. history against LGBTQ+ victims. The team hoisted into the rafters a jersey with the number 49 to represent the number of individuals killed in the shooting. The team’s stadium is located with blocks of where the gay nightclub operated.