Orlando Magic presents first Pride Night

By : Billy Manes
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Orlando – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Orlando’s signature sports league the Orlando Magic would be hopping onto the “Pride Night” train. After all, Orlando has been in the global spotlight since last year’s Pulse massacre which took the lives of (eventually) 50 victims. The Magic has made a point of its engagement with the community and the community has paid in kind (nearly $500 million) to build the Amway Center, the spired city landmark that hosts the basketball team and its games. The league is proud of its varied community, staff says. Giving back is what it is all about.

“We, over the last two years have been introducing more theme nights for our community around myriad things,” Linda Landman Gonazalez, vice president of philanthropy and multicultural insights for the Orlando Magic, says.“We’ve always done Black History Month; we’ve always done Hispanic Heritage Month, Latin Night; we’ve always done everything.”

“As we looked at whether or not we’ve communicated with our full community, at the back of our mind has been how do we get involved with the LGBTQ community on a real relationship-type , partnership basis. As you know, the league, the NBA, has done a lot, but, you know, it’s like everything. We began some really strong relationships about four or five years ago. When Zebra Coalition started, we were really part of that,” she adds.

The Magic set the ball into motion after last summer’s tragedy.

“And then Alex [Martins] and the Magic and the DeVos family around what happened at Pulse, we just started to ask more and more people about what a theme night would look like,” she says.“When we started talking to the MBA and the LGBTQ Alliance, we asked whether a ticket-night like thing would work and how would it be best to do that? They thought it would be a great idea, and like everything, it just gained momentum.It’s been a four or five year journey to get us here.”

But there has been some blowback from the LGBTQ community. The DeVos family has notoriously funded anti-gay causes, leading some in Orlando to call for a boycott of the team outright.

“Yeah, we’re aware,” Landman Gonzalez says. “Since they launched, Mr. DeVos made some investments in things, but we weren’t in agreement. We had a very healthy conversation with the family that this was not an Orlando Magic focus … And we really had a healthy conversation about the Orlando Magic not being the DeVos foundation.”

In the wake of Betsy Devos narrow approval as Secretary of Education for the Donald Trump administration, it makes for a tough argument nonetheless. Though the family offered $400,000 to the One Orlando Fund, that’s only a fraction of the $2 million spent to fight gay marriage and other LGBTQ rights.

“The only way I can say this is that we have made it very clear from day one that what people do is what they do, but we’re not in agreement, nor does it reflect how the Orlando Magic or the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation wants to support, and we are not included in any of those investments or even conversations,” Landman Gonzalez says. “No one can say this organization, the Orlando Magic, has not been an incredible neighbor. I mean, we have never, ever, thought ourselves of being a neighbor of few. We’re a neighbor of everyone.”

Orlando Magic’s Pride Night is on March 6 at 7 p.m. Visit orlandomagic.com/pridenight for more details.

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