The Orlando Magic basketball team made a $50,000 donation to Never Back Down Inc., a super PAC that supports Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s running for the Republican presidential nomination.
The receipt date is noted as June 26, 2023, on the Federal Election Commission’s website. However, a representative claims the donation was made on May 19, just days before DeSantis announced his bid for president on May 24.
“To clarify, this gift was given before Gov. 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,” Joel Glass, the chief communications officer for the NBA team, told HuffPost.
The Never Back Down super PAC’s sole focus is to support DeSantis’ presidential run, according to its website. A representative for Never Back Down did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
The team has made donations previously, according to FEC records. In May 2016, the FEC reported that the team donated $500 to Conservative Results. In August 2014, the team reportedly donated $2,000 to a conservative political action committee, Maverick PAC USA. And in 2000, the team reportedly donated $500 to support Democrat Linda Chapin’s failed run for Congress.
The Orlando Magic is owned by the DeVos family, in-laws of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who served in Donald Trump’s Cabinet. The current chair of the franchise is Betsy DeVos’ brother-in-law, Dan DeVos, who has made the third-largest contribution to political causes out of all sports team owners, USA Today reported in 2020.
The Orlando Magic has ties to the Disney Co., which has been involved in a legal dispute with DeSantis stemming from the state’s anti-LGBTQ laws. The team has also hosted public events to support the LGBTQ community. Disney and DeSantis are in the middle of a legal dispute since Disney spoke out against the governor’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and drew what the company alleges is politically motivated retribution.
“The @OrlandoMagic needs to pick a side,” former state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) tweeted Wednesday in response to news of the team’s donation to DeSantis.
“You can’t have Pride Night and claim to celebrate and support the LGBTQ community, and then donate $50,000 to a presidential candidate running against the LGBTQ community and promoting a platform to take away our rights.”