A kind gesture, but Orlando won’t host NBA All-Star Weekend

There is a movement to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to Orlando to honor those lost in the tragic events. This just may not be the right time.

Orlando is still picking up the pieces following last weekend’s attack at Pulse night club, a gay bar south of Downtown Orlando. It has hit the entire community hard and touched off debates throughout the nation about gun rights, terrorism, LGBTQ rights and where and how all fit into society.

The pain will always be there for Orlando though. We have seen in the past week just how much this city can come together and be there for each other in the face of tragedy. Orlando’s local leaders, law enforcement, first responders and community have shined brightest in the darkest times.

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It has hit the news cycle and been cycled through in a number of different ways. The posturing and positioning that is part of our political culture have begun. The political football will continue to get tossed around and then perhaps dropped as distance dulls the emotion.

The NBA may yet play a part in the political statements to come.

The league is currently facing some pressure to move the NBA All-Star Game in 2017 from Charlotte, N.C. North Carolina, of course, continues to face criticism and controversy for passing a law in a special legislative session to prevent cities, counties and municipalities from passing ordinances to specifically protect LGBTQ residents under civil rights and anti-discrimination laws. Notably this included protections for transgender individuals to use the bathrooms of their sexual identity.

This post is not meant to debate that law (that is for another space and another blog). Only to point out the controversy and increasing public pressure on the state to repeal the law.

The NBA came out with a statement repudiating the law. Many opponents of the law believe the NBA should move the All-Star Game in February 2017 out of Charlotte and North Carolina as a form of economic pressure or boycott. Several other companies have made and will move their business out of the state in response.

There is no hint the NBA will follow through and move the All-Star Game. Charlotte, after all, is the city that passed the ordinance that set off this special legislative session that created this situation.

With Orlando now a victim of one of the largest attacks and hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, there seems to be a nice synergy and way to both send a statement to North Carolina and honor those lost in the tragedy in Orlando.

A user on the NBA Reddit page suggested a few days ago the league move the All-Star Game from Charlotte to Orlando as a way to honor the LGBTQ community and those lost in the tragedy. Orlando is an ideal host for the All-Star Game having done so in 2012. The Orlando Magic hope to host the game again in 2019 or 2020, when the next bidding comes around.

The idea did catch some wind. It has 1,823 votes on Reddit and has more than 500 comments in the discussion thread. The story was also picked up by Jalen Rose and David Jacoby on their ESPN show:

 

It is a brilliant symbolic idea in many ways. Orlando wants to host the All-Star Game again and is certainly prepared to do so.

Now is not the right time. And Orlando may not be the right statement to make.

The logistics of hosting an All-Star Game are immense. Orlando certainly has the hotel and convention space to do it (schedules pending for both the Amway Center and the Orange County Convention Center).

But the area around the arena would not be able to handle the increase in traffic and attention directly Downtown.

By the time February rolls around, the Magic will begin construction on their entertainment complex directly across the street from the arena. The I-4 Ultimate construction project will also put a lot of stress on traffic coming downtown. With the necessary shuttling of events between the convention and the Amway Center this will only put more pressure on an already-stressed infrastructure.

This is not to say Orlando could not do it. The city is hosting the Pro Bowl and WrestleMania in the next year. Those are two major sporting events that take up a week of the sports calendar in the city. The city can move things around and handle it for sure with a major event in January and another major event in April.

On such short notice though, it could be difficult for the city to truly prepare.

There is also the little matter of the reality of it all. It is not lost on many the irony of the Magic showing their support for LGBTQ community.

While the Magic have, to my knowledge, always been a supportive and inclusive organization to the LGBTQ community,the DeVos family has not.

The DeVos family has consistently been called out for a 2009 donation to the National Organization for Marriage, labeled a hate group for their aggressive political opposition to marriage equality and LGBTQ rights in general, and Rich DeVos’ controversial comments about AIDS during his time as a member of President Ronald Reagan’s task force studying the issue — he said those who contracted AIDS, many homosexual, were suffering the consequences of their decision — still make everyone cringe. It showed an incredible lack of empathy, at the least, even if it was born out of fears from a time when we understood a lot less about the disease and were much less accepting of the LGBTQ community.

Attitudes obviously evolve and change. A lot of progress has been made. The Magic themselves have not been exclusionary to my knowledge. But this is no doubt a point that sticks with the LGBTQ community. It is not something DeVos or his family have commented further on.

When the Magic are asked about it, they separate themselves from the family and not they are free as individuals to contribute to whatever political cause they choose. The Magic themselves are an inclusive organization.

It is a thorny issue, even getting brought up in Donald Sterling’s lawsuit against the NBA.

The optics on the surface make it seem like moving the All-Star Game from Charlotte to Orlando would honor the victims and the LGBTQ community. Digging deeper, though, it would raise more issues with the community it is meant to honor.

Maybe the All-Star Game and the team rise above the transgressions and positions of its owner. Maybe that is something everyone can overcome in order to make a larger statement. Maybe that statement gets lost with the circumstances of the Magic’s ownership — and at least the perception that remains about the DeVos family and their political spending habits.

With the construction included, the gesture of moving the All-Star Game to Orlando is a noble one. It is something that would be a strong symbolic statement on its face.

But there are just too many impediments to making this idea happen. There will be plenty of other ways for the NBA and the Orlando Magic to recognize and honor those lost in Saturday’s tragic events.