NBA players association says Orlando Magic donation to DeSantis super PAC doesn’t signal player support

The National Basketball Players Association said Thursday that the Orlando Magic’s recent $50,000 donation to a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “does not represent player support for the recipient.”

“A political contribution from the Orlando Magic is alarming given recent comments and policies of its beneficiary,” the labor union that represents NBA players said in a statement Thursday.

It added: “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 Orlando Magic made the donation to Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting DeSantis’ campaign for the presidential nomination, according to financial disclosures filed this week.

A team spokesman said the donation was given before 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,” the spokesman said.

The team is owned by the DeVos family, prominent Republicans. Betsy DeVos, daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, the former Magic chairman who died in 2018, was the education secretary in the Trump administration. Members of the DeVos family have donated to DeSantis individually, as well as to other Republicans over the years. DeSantis, who is in his second term as governor, formally announced he would seek the Republican nomination on May 24.

DeSantis’ policies have collided with many of the NBA’s positions. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, the commissioners of the NBA and the WNBA said in a joint statement that the leagues “believe that women should be able to make their own decisions concerning their health and future.” Adam Silver and Cathy Engelbert added that they would work to ensure that employees “have access to reproductive health care, regardless of their location.”

Silver has donated to the campaigns of Democrats, including President Joe Biden. In April, DeSantis signed legislation that would ban most abortions after six weeks in Florida, making it one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

And most recently, he defended the state’s revised African American history standards for students in grades K-12, that have drawn widespread backlash for indicating that some Black people benefited from slavery.

The vast majority of NBA players are Black. In a 2016 interview with The Undefeated, Silver said that he felt a “particular obligation to focus on the African-American community in that we have a league that is roughly 75 percent African-American. And I feel part of the obligation comes from the history of this league that I’ve inherited.”

DeSantis, whose office did not immediately return a request for comment, has taken on issues of race, gender-affirming care and education both as governor and on the campaign trail. He has also been in a feud with Disney, a sponsor of the Magic.

Some of the league’s biggest stars, such as LeBron James and Stephen Curry, have shown support for issues of national interest, including the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020 in Minneapolis and voting rights.

In 2020, after Floyd’s death and amid national civil rights protests, the NBA launched the Social Justice Coalition, taking up such issues as voting rights and calling for changes in policing. DeSantis has been accused of signing measures that are anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ.

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