DeSantis Uses Sports Complex Veto To Attack Tampa Bay Rays’ Gun Reform Effort

OCALA, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2022/05/06: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reacts at a press conference at Sam’s Club in Ocala, where he signed into law more than $1.2 billion in tax relief for Floridians, the la... OCALA, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2022/05/06: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reacts at a press conference at Sam’s Club in Ocala, where he signed into law more than $1.2 billion in tax relief for Floridians, the largest tax relief package in Florida’s history. In an effort to combat inflation, taxes will be eliminated for varying periods of time on goods including fuel, children’s books, diapers, and home improvement items. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) MORE LESS

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday used his veto of a multi-million dollar funding package for a sports complex to attack the gun reform advocacy of the Tampa Bay Rays, a Major League Baseball team. 

DeSantis vetoed $35 million in funds for the complex after the Rays’ official account posted a tweet supporting gun reform efforts in the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. 

In a press conference Friday, DeSantis initially explained the veto by saying he didn’t support giving taxpayer dollars to professional sports facilities. And he’s not alone in that regard: Activists and journalists across the political spectrum have spoken out against public funding for stadiums and other facilities. 

But DeSantis kept talking, singling out the Rays’ “political activism.” 

“Now, companies are free to engage or not engage with whatever discourse they want, but clearly, it’s inappropriate to be doing tax dollars for professional sports stadiums,” he said. “It’s also inappropriate to subsidize the political activism of a private corporation. So I think either way, it’s not appropriate.”

Days after the gun massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde, the Rays announced on their Twitter page that they were committing to donate $50,000 to the gun reform advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. 

“The Rays organization stands committed to actionable change and has made a $50,000 commitment to Everytown for Gun Safety’s Support Fund,” the team wrote

The right-wing sports news website OutKick first noted DeSantis’ veto in an article that focused on the Rays’ statement and donation. “DeSantis’s decision is in response to the Rays politicizing recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde ahead of a matchup with the Yankees in May,” the article said in its second paragraph. 

DeSantis’ spokesperson Christina Pushaw subsequently retweeted the article twice Thursday, then wrote in a tweet of her own: “As a general principle, taxpayer funds should not be subsidizing partisan political activist organizations. Corporations do not have the right to get corporate welfare, turn around and ‘donate’ taxpayer dollars to communist progressive causes nobody voted for.” 

In an email to TPM, Pushaw said, “As my tweet clearly stated, that was a general statement.” The Rays declined to comment.

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