Shame on DeVos for involving Magic in politics

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You often hear conservative pundits tell NBA players such as LeBron James to stay out of politics and to just “shut up and dribble.”

I’ve got a piece of similar advice for the DeVos family — the conservative proprietors of the Orlando Magic:

Shut up and own.

Keep your political opinions and endorsements separate from the team, please.

I was absolutely flabbergasted a few days ago when I heard the Orlando Magic had made a $50,000 campaign contribution to the Ron DeSantis’ Political Action Committee. At first, I thought there must be some kind of mistake.

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Surely, there must have been faulty reporting on the original story. Surely, this was the DeVos family — well-known for contributing heavily to the Republican party — making the donation in its own name and not on behalf of the team itself.

But, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case; it was indeed the DeVos family contributing to DeSantis on behalf of the Orlando Magic.

The resulting outcry was understandable.

The NBA Players Association, the union representing NBA athletes, issued a statement and called the Magic’s contribution “alarming given recent comments and policies of [DeSantis] … NBA governors, players and personnel have the right to express their personal political views, including through donations and statements. However, if contributions are made on behalf of an entire team, using money earned through the labor of its employees, it is incumbent upon the team governors to consider the diverse values and perspectives of staff and players … The Magic’s donation does not represent player support for the recipient [DeSantis].”

DeSantis, of course, fired back with a tweet that said, “It appears the NBA took a break from protesting our anthem and bending the knee to Communist China to chirp about my policies.”

Give the Guv credit for an effective retort, but that doesn’t excuse the monumental mistake by Magic ownership, which has now put the Magic in the middle of a political feud between the league’s players and the governor of our state. This might be the DeVos family’s biggest gaffe since lowballing Shaq back in the day.

Politically, philosophically, civically and perhaps even financially, there’s no denying this was a boneheaded blunder. Reason No. 1 is because the Magic’s biggest corporate sponsor — the name embroidered at the top of the team’s jersey — is “Disney.” How do you think Disney CEO Bob Iger feels about giving the team a ton of money while the team is passing some of that money on to the Mouse’s mortal enemy?

Obviously, as individuals, we all have a right to vote for and donate to the political candidates our our choice, and it’s certainly no surprise that the DeVos family — and probably most billionaire sports owners — are conservatives who support Republican candidates. But to make political contributions in the team’s names is just plain wrong.

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Somehow, I don’t think the late Rich DeVos, the patriarch of the family, would have signed off on this. DeVos often said that his family wasn’t the true owners of the Magic. “We are just the caretakers,” he would say. “The real stakeholders are the fans and community of Central Florida.”

Michael Jordan once famously responded when asked why he didn’t politically endorse Democratic candidates even though he was a registered Democrat: “Because Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Likewise, the DeVos family should realize that Democrats buy Magic tickets and merchandise, too.

What makes this even worse is that Magic have tried so hard to make themselves inviting to potential free agents and now they are being portrayed by the league’s own players union as the franchise that supports a lightning-rod candidate such as DeSantis. Will this keep free agents from wanting to sign with the Magic? Hopefully not, but in a league that is nearly 80% Black, it’s simply not good for business for an NBA team to be writing checks to DeSantis right now.

It’s no secret, as the Associated Press reports, that “DeSantis has come under fire from many civil rights groups and other organizations, as well as prominent Black Republicans, for new school standards on Black history that are required to include ‘how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.’”

Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s oldest historically Black fraternity, canceled its 2025 convention in Orlando because of a “hostile … political environment of manufactured division and attacks on the Black community.”

Wherever you stand politically, there is no denying that this is bad business for the basketball team.

Sadly, this one $50,000 donation to DeSantis is getting tons more national negative publicity than all of the the positive exposure the Magic and DeVos family have received from the the millions and millions of dollars they have donated to charities and other good causes in Central Florida over the years. Why the backlash? Because in today’s politically polarized country, the DeVos family inexplicably allowed politics to once again interfere with sports.

When Colin Kaepernick and NFL players were kneeling for the national anthem to protest President Donald Trump, I called it “a star-spangled business blunder” because it was turning off a good portion of the fan base.

We go to sporting events to escape the ugliness of the real world and get away from the poison polluting our minds on the cable “news” networks. Fans go to games to root for their team without having to worry about where the teams stand on abortion, climate change, transgender bathrooms and critical race theory.

Memo to chairman Dan DeVos: Keep your politics within the family and away from the basketball team.

When it comes to the Orlando Magic just shut up and own.

Email me at [email protected]. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and HD 101.1-2

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