Note To Gov. DeSantis: The Tampa Bay Rays Are Not The Same As Disney

I defended Gov. Ron DeSantis’s cancellation of Disney’s long-standing special status with the state of Florida, because, ethically, partners shouldn’t publicly attack partners without consequences, and because Disney’s privilege of self-government was in great part a product of the company bolstering core American values and a family-friendly culture. No, I pointed out more than once, this was not a case of a corporation being singled out to be punished for a political position the state opposed, but a situation where special benefits could no longer be justified if Disney was no longer going to hold up its end of the original mutually-beneficial deal of yore, which could be reasonably seen as “You don’t meddle in our business, and we won’t meddle in yours.” Moreover, giving Disney special benefits that other theme parks in the state didn’t have could not be justified as fair and reasonable any longer.

It now appears that I may have been giving Gov. DeSantis more credit than he deserved, and that his slap at Disney was, at least in part, an example of a state government punishing a company for a political position it had every right to hold, state, and act upon. Yesterday we learned that DeSantis intends to veto a $35 million bill for Florida to pay for a Pasco County facility that would serve as for the Tampa Bay Rays’ spring training home. The reason is, apparently, the baseball team’s public message above.

Ethics foul, appropriately enough for a baseball story. Major League Baseball teams have traditionally taken positions in political matters of concern to the public and the communities in which they play. Sometimes these positions have been ill-considered and irresponsible, like the groveling to Black Lives Matter. In other issues, like spousal abuse and integration, baseball teams have been responsible corporate citizens. The veto of the stadium bill is, says Outkick, a message of support for “the people who do not want their sports and children’s companies on the front lines of the cultural divide.”

Right. DeSantis would have vetoed the bill if the Rays announced their support for the Second Amendment? Suuuuure. And if Disney had supported DeSantis’ parental rights bill, aka “Don’t Say Gay,” bill, aka “Anti-Grooming” bill, he would have still sought the end of Disney”s mastery of its own domain?

Come on.

The Rays message may run counter to DeSantis’s positions, but it isn’t, like Disney’s defiance, direct opposition to the state government. Nor do the Rays have the special status Disney had before the House of Mouse decided to fight for sex talks in the third grade. Personally, I don’t think Florida should give millions to baseball teams: the Rays can afford to build their own facilities. However, whereas cutting ties with Disney was an example of doing the right thing for the right reasons, the punishment of the Rays is doing the right thing for unethical reasons, while sending an unethical message to every corporation in Florida:

“Nice business you have here…it would too bad if something were to happen to it because you don’t have the right positions on issues the Governor cares about…”

15 thoughts on “Note To Gov. DeSantis: The Tampa Bay Rays Are Not The Same As Disney

  1. Yes, the Rays should pay for their own facilities and can well afford to do so, and if they were doing that, I might call the governor’s reaction to their announcement out of line. But, since the team has sought special favors from the taxpayers in this deal, I will shed no tears because they face kickback for proudly supporting an organization that is working hard to curtail those taxpayers’ Second Amendment rights. It is no secret that “gun safety” is merely the ETGS (and others’) cuddly euphemism for gun control. I think the Rays just picked a poor hill to die on with their virtue-signaling actions. Zero sympathy here.

  2. Frankly, the idea of corporations taking public policy positions not strictly related to lawful business interests is unethical.

    Especially when large corporate entities can wield considerable influence given their deep pockets. Won’t do what we want on a social issue? We’ll contribute lots to the candidate/PACs who will. Has nothing to do with our business model, we just think it’s ok to groom kindergartners.

    The ability to out message your opponent has effects, especially in close races, and that is impacted by money.

    Politicians don’t represent everybody equally, they “better” (i.e. more closely) represent the voters who put them in office – that’s the point of the exercise.

    If DeSantis is doing what both he and those who elected him believe is correct, then he’s doing the right thing for the right reasons.

    The org the team contributed to has this on their website:
    “The result is clear: The stronger a state’s gun safety laws, the fewer people die by gun violence.”

    What a crock. The places with the most “gun safety laws” are the places with the highest gun homicide rates, and it’s due to the political and moral cultures in those cities and states, not “guns”.

    That site has all the tired anti gun tropes that have never worked. Illinois is on their list of hero states. The gun supporting rural areas of Illinois are not the problem, but that big town up north with all those great laws sure is. Chicago has had weekends that equal Uvalde, and every month the body count equals it nobody cares a whit.

    Did anybody at Tampa actually see what that site promotes? Or was it just a BLM style shakedown?

    If you want to play politics, you get its outputs.

    Tampa played ball and lost, don’t see how it’s unethical just because they got beat.

  3. This is just political opportunism. My feeling is that he would’ve vetoed it even if the Rays had not made their donation to a gun control organization. He just used it to his political advantage.

    Unethical? Yes. But in the current political environment, I have a hard time condemning him for it. It has the additional benefit of reinforcing the “shut up and [insert what the business is supposed to be doing here]” message that Disney received loud and clear. I’m so sick and tired of businesses virtue-signaling that anything that makes that garbage feel more risky is an unalloyed good.

  4. We are currently in the midst of pride month, so my employer is filling up my inbox with woke pandering. No, kink is not diversity. That pride bingo card you sent me is offensive, and why are you assuming gay people cry every day? No I do not want to join a meeting so you can pander to the leftwing and insult everyone else under the guise of inclusion.

    I’m so sick of businesses cramming their politics down my throat. I really have no sympathy for any business who gets its fingers burned for spewing propaganda. Maybe this is unethical, but I don’t care. Leftwing states and corporations throw their weight around like this all the damn time. Maybe it is time they got a taste of their own medicine. If the corporations weren’t so busy driving people absolutely insane with their obnoxious, overpowering, incessant propaganda people might have more sympathy for their plight.

  5. [Possible duplicate – WordPress is messing with me, or vice-versa.]
    Bobby Burack at Outkick – at the link given above – claims without evidence that DeSantis’ veto was in response to the Rays politicizing recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. Several news reports imply the same thing by stating that DeSantis’ action came after the Rays published their statement.
    ‘After is not the same as ‘because of’, but, at least they got the chronology right.
    There was public opposition to that $35 million use of taxpayer money months ago, and DeSantis previously had given at least some indication he would veto it.
    He vetoed altogether about $3.1 billion, so, let’s dig up political statements from all of those ‘punished’ through denial of taxpayer handouts to be held up as further evidence that DeSantis is an ethics knave.

  6. Everyone is an entirely Astroturf political organization, created and funded by megalomaniac billionaire gun-grabber Michael Bloomberg. If the Rays wanted to encourage gun safety, they would donate to the NRA, which actually conducts firearms safety and training programs for children, adults, and law enforcement. Besides advocacy to ban and confiscate firearms, and other efforts to subvert the Constitution, Everytown actively works to undo Florida laws, like “stand your ground”.
    Money is fungible. If the Rays can give away money to promote divisive political activism, they can expect to get pushback, and pay for everything else they want on their own.

  7. The Rays are notorious for not drawing well at their home games. Maybe we’re getting a portion of the reason for that.

    But speaking of not drawing well at home games, I was listening to the Rangers game at Oakland last week. This was on a Thursday night, which is not typically a well attended night in any town, but….I swear this is true — the attendance that night, for a major league baseball game, was 3210. Yep, 3 thousand. Now the A’s did improve on that the rest of the weekend (it was an excruciatingly low bar) and the managed to pull in 5k on Friday night, 6.5k Saturday, and a whopping 8k for the Sunday afternoon game.


  8. I read the Outkick article and, at least to me, the notion that the governor was vetoing the bill because of the statement was conjecture on the part of the writer. Nowhere in the article does the writer attribute the statement about “giving voice to . . . ” to anyone in the DeSantis administration or to the governor himself. In fact, the very next statement is that Florida residents wanted him to veto the bill. That paragraph would be easier to validate.

    The entire piece smacks of being an editorial and not a news story based on facts that can be attributed to particular individuals.

    • Yeah, I agree that treating the Outkick artificial as news rather than speculation was a mistake on my part. I assumed that the reporter at least had some kind of inside info regarding the governor’s motives, and that assumption is not justified. The timing of the veto is suspicious, but that might just mean that, having decided to veto the measure on the merits, DeSantis decided to use it to also send a message that had plausible deniability if there was enough of the same criticism EA raised.

      But, of course, the veto hasn’t occurred yet…and therefore, might not.

      Good catch on your part: you’re right, I was wrong.

      • DeSantis signed the state budget Thursday, so that’s when the vetoes were effective, unless the legislature overrides them. On Friday, DeSantis said, “Companies are free to engage or not engage in whatever discourse they want, but clearly it’s inappropriate to be doing tax dollars for professional sports stadiums. It’s also inappropriate to subsidize political activism of a private corporation.”
        We may never know if DeSantis opposed this spending from the beginning, or if the Rays’ statement was a deciding factor.
        In its article, CNN says DeSantis’ action was partly in response to the Tampa Bay Rays public statement, citing “a source familiar with the internal conversations” [you, know, the guy on the next bar stool]. But the article also acknowledges that DeSantis was skeptical of the project before the Rays’ statement.
        I still don’t see how failing to give a handout to a private company is punishment, but for those willing to pursue this idea, the complete list of vetoes, more than 400 of them, is here:

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