The Orlando Magic spat in the face of Black players by supporting Ron DeSantis

The Orlando Magic’s decision to make a $50,000 contribution in support of the presidential bid of Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, sends a clear message to their Black players, employees and fans. And that message is a U-turn from the one in the summer of 2020 when the United States was in an uproar over the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the shooting of Jacob Blake as well as countless other examples of police brutality.

Back then, the Magic issued this statement through CEO Alex Martins, allegedly standing in solidarity with Black people:

“We stand with our neighbors and the nation in condemning the horrific and senseless death of George Floyd. There have been far too many victims of racial bias and abuses of power, particularly in the Black community. As an organization, we remain deeply committed to providing an environment where all feel welcomed, valued and appreciated, where all are treated with dignity and respect.”

But the team’s recent decision to throw their support (and money) behind the campaign of DeSantis is the antithesis is everything the Magic claimed to support less than three years ago.

Let me be clear. I am in no way, shape or form suggesting that the Magic and their governors, the DeVos family, don’t have the right to support whichever presidential candidate they choose, just as NBA players have the right to support whichever candidate they choose. My book, We Matter: Athletes And Activism, encouraged and pushed for athletes to continue the rich tradition of sportspeople using their voices and their platforms to take a stand on issues that affect our communities.

So it would be hypocritical for me to now say that the Magic don’t have that same right. Of course they do. However, I also have the right to point out the hypocrisy of claiming to be “deeply committed” to equality, and dedicated to rooting out “racial bias and abuses of power particularly in the Black Community”, then offering financial support to a person like DeSantis, the Republican governor who has dedicated himself to the very ideals the Magic claimed to oppose.

Ironically, after the summer of 2020, the Orlando Magic were also a part of the group of NBA governors which formed the Social Justice Coalition to display their alleged commitment to tackling many of the issues addressed at protests across the US. The coalition’s concerns involved issues such as police brutality, police accountability, voting rights, criminal justice reform, the education system and dismantling racism, bias and discrimination – areas that disproportionately affect Black people in particular.

And in Florida, one of the main people in direct opposition to Black people as a whole is none other than DeSantis, whose policies have made a full embrace of racism, bias and bigotry.

Here are just a few examples:

DeSantis backed a slew of new laws passed by the state legislature that are focused on removing what he termed as “woke indoctrination” in an effort to “empower” white parents in Florida. The laws ban the teaching of critical race theory, an intellectual movement that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism. He also forbid teachers from teaching any material that makes white students “feel guilt” because of actions committed by white people of the past.

He mandated the teaching of Asian-American history in Florida schools but banned courses on systemic racism.

He signed legislation to keep Floridians from learning about discrimination and what he called “woke indoctrination”.

The NAACP issued a travel warning to Black people because of DeSantis’s “openly hostility” toward Black people in the state of Florida.

DeSantis’s administration also approved a new curriculum requiring schools to teach that slaves developed skills that “could be applied for their personal benefit.” (I can’t even wrap my mind around how any decent human being could even suggest that slavery was a benefit to the people actually enslaved. The mere thought is beyond the pale, but to enact a curriculum to teach that to children is evil.)

I remember as a teenager asking my grandmother about a book she was reading called Roots. She told me through tears stories that were passed down to her by her grandmother of the horrors of slavery. It was nowhere near the whitewashed version DeSantis has endorsed. It was more of an actual horror movie. Torture, rape, public floggings, castrations, lynchings, beatings, mutilation, families torn apart, men and women worked in the fields from “can’t see in the morning until can’t see at night”. I remember my grandmother saying “they didn’t view us as human beings.”

There are no silver linings from slavery. It was hell on earth.

I couldn’t imagine playing for an organization that would support the disrespectful whitewashing and watering-down of my ancestors’ tragic history in this country. It would be like asking a Jewish person to work for a Holocaust denier.

Here is the bottom line: DeSantis is running his campaign on racism. The goal of his slogan “Florida is where woke goes to die” is crystal clear. He is Trump 2.0. His dog whistles aren’t even discreet; they are obvious hate-filled declarations. But in addition to his words, his actual policies are patterned after white supremacy segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s. He is channeling the Jim Crow south not only in his language, which would be dangerous enough, but in his actual laws.

So for the Magic to make a contribution to him, and in support of his whistling-Dixie, Confederate, Jim Crow aspirations, they are choosing the antithesis of freedom, justice and equality. The direct opposition to “creating an environment where all feel welcomed, valued, appreciated and are all are treated with dignity and respect”.

It was good to see the NBA players’ union voice their disapproval in a statement on Wednesday.

“A political contribution from the Orlando Magic is alarming given recent comments and policies of its beneficiary,” read the statement. “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,” the union said.

That pretty much sums it up. By consciously aligning themselves with white supremacy, the Magic have spit in the face of every Black player on their roster, every Black coach on their bench, every Black employee of their organization and every Black fan of their team.

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