Jim Acosta and Rachel Nichols discussing an Orlando Magic political donation to Ron DeSantis on CNN. Jim Acosta and Rachel Nichols discussing an Orlando Magic political donation to Ron DeSantis on CNN. (Rachel Nichols on Twitter.)

Earlier this week, the NBA’s Orlando Magic made major headlines. That came from Alex Shultz of SFGATE reporting on a $50,000 donation to Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ super political action committee that was attributed to the team, rather than to owners Dick or Betsy DeVos:

That understandably kicked off controversy on a couple of fronts. One was that this was seen by many as the team as an overall entity endorsing DeSantis. Another is that the team then claimed in a statement that “This gift was given before Governor 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.” Meanwhile, the National Basketball Players Association pushed back:

DeSantis has made headlines for a lot of things, but one of particular note to the NBA is his recent remarks defending a controversial Florida curriculum claiming that enslaved Black people “developed skills, which in some instances, could be used for tehir benefit.” Former NBA player Larry Nance Jr. specifically took aim at that:

That donation has continued to make waves, with DeSantis himself firing back. On Friday, he blasted the NBA on his Twitter account with comments about “protesting our anthem” and “bending the knee to Communist China”:

On Friday, Rachel Nichols went on CNN Tonight with Jim Acosta to discuss this. Nichols, the former ESPN reporter and host now working with Showtime Sports, Monumental Sports Network, and more, had strong comments on why players are upset:

Here’s the key part of those comments from Nichols: “What upsets these players so much is that this donation was not made on behalf of Betsy DeVos or Dick DeVos, it was made on behalf of the team. And you have players and coaches and executives who have come out publicly with very different opinions than DeSantis’, and now their names are being used in association with this donation.”

“And more importantly, as the Players’ Association statement pointed out, it’s their labor. Money for NBA teams, the Orlando Magic’s money that they donated to Ron DeSantis, doesn’t come from a magic tree elf. It comes from the work of players on the court. And that their work has been turned into a contribution to someone running for president who has come out with statements that they think directly oppose who they are as people, that’s very difficult to stomach.”

Beyond that, Acosta and Nichols discuss the Magic response from chief communications officer Joel Glass of claiming this was for DeSantis as governor rather than presidential candidate, with Nichols saying “Joel Glass is really excellent at his job, but his boss put him in a crappy situation here, and as you say, it doesn’t really hold up, right? Everyone knew, everyone’s mother knew, everyone’s pets knew that Ron DeSantis was about to announce for president.”

Those are notable comments indeed, and they do help illustrate why the players think this deserves more attention than the political contributions we more regularly see from team owners. It’s not currently clear why this donation was made by the Magic franchise rather than their ownership. And it will be interesting to see if other teams make donations to political candidates going forward.

[Rachel Nichols on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.