Ron DeSantis Prepares For a New Kind of Legal Fight, One That Could Impact Disney

Ron DeSantis with ESPN college football
Credit: ESPN/ Good Morning America

Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis is once again in headlines making legal threats, however this time, they’re not aimed at Disney.

ron desantis and cinderella castle

Credit: Becky Burkett/Flickr/Gage Skidmore/Canva

Ron DeSantis and Disney World have had a complex relationship over the years. As the governor of Florida, DeSantis has had to navigate the delicate balance between upholding public health and supporting the state’s tourism industry, of which Disney World is a major part.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis faced criticism for his handling of the theme parks, including Disney World. Many questioned his decision to allow the parks to reopen in the midst of the pandemic, while others praised his efforts to revive the economy and provide much-needed jobs.

Related: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Pushes for Massive Overhaul of Disney World Attractions & Rides

In April 2020, DeSantis initially deemed WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) as an essential business, allowing them to continue to operate in Orlando. This decision raised eyebrows and led to concerns about prioritizing the interests of corporations over public health.

However, DeSantis has also been a proponent of reopening the state and getting people back to work. He has consistently pushed for Florida to be open for business and has praised Disney World for implementing stringent health and safety protocols. These protocols include mandatory mask usage, increased sanitation measures, and limited park capacity.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Speech ABC News

Credit: Disney/ABC

Disney World is an economic powerhouse for the state of Florida, generating billions of dollars in revenue and providing employment opportunities for thousands of people. Keeping the parks open, albeit with safety measures in place, has been a crucial part of DeSantis’ strategy to revive the state’s economy.

Despite the controversy surrounding his decisions, DeSantis maintained a strong stance on the importance of personal responsibility in navigating the pandemic. He believed that individuals should have the freedom to make their own health decisions, including whether or not to visit places like Disney World.

bob iger disney parks

Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Despite his handling of the pandemic, DeSantis found himself at odds with Walt Disney World, and Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger after Iger claimed that DeSantis was “punishing” companies who were speaking out against his “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

This is where things escalate, and a feud between Disney and Ron DeSantis intensifies. Those remarks came shortly after Disney utilized a loophole to manage sovereign control over its self-governing district, Reedy Creek.

Since the remarks, Disney and Florida Gov Ron DeSantis have entered into a legal battle in which DeSantis attempted to strip Disney of its own legal power over the district, including the introduction of an overseeing board to Reedy Creek.

Reedy Creek Improvement District

The Reedy Creek Improvement District, commonly referred to as the Disney Reedy Creek District, was a special-purpose government entity located in Central Florida. It was created in 1967 by the Florida Legislature to provide infrastructure and essential services to support the development of the Walt Disney World Resort.

Related: DeSantis’ Latest Disney Decision Has Reedy Creek Firefighters Speaking Out

The Disney Reedy Creek District was responsible for governing and managing a vast area of land, including the Walt Disney World theme parks, hotels, and other entertainment offerings. It had its own jurisdiction and operates with a high level of autonomy, allowing it to make decisions independently from the surrounding local government.

The district was named after the Reedy Creek, which runs through the area. It was made up of two cities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, that were specifically created to give Disney control over zoning and land use regulations.

Reedy Creek

Credit: Reedy Creek

One of the key features of the Disney Reedy Creek District was its ability to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance infrastructure projects within its boundaries. This allowed Disney to invest in the development and expansion of the Walt Disney World Resort without relying solely on public funding.

The former district is governed by a board of supervisors, who are now appointed by the Governor of Florida, currently Ron DeSantis. These supervisors make decisions on matters such as land use planning, transportation, utilities, and public safety within the district.

Related: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Announces New Reedy Creek Board Members

Overall, the Disney Reedy Creek District played a crucial role in the success and operation of the Walt Disney World Resort, providing a unique governing structure that allowed Disney to maintain a high level of control and autonomy over its property. This special arrangement has helped the resort become one of the most popular and beloved tourist destinations in the world.

DeSantis Backs Off of Disney World 

Since then, the heat has died down in Orlando and Tallahassee, especially considering Mr. DeSantis making a run at a potential presidential bid. Things seem to be slowly returning to normal in central Florida despite an appointed audit of the district.

It seems that Gov. DeSantis has now turned his legal attention toward a much easier opponent. However, one Disney has it’s hands in no matter what. In a shocking move, the Florida Gov Ron DeSantis announced that he included $1 million in his budget to sue the College Football Playoff Committee, citing massive financial losses to Florida State University over their exclusion from ESPN-broadcasted playoff games.

The College Football Playoff Controversy: Unveiling the Debates and Dilemmas

The College Football Playoff (CFP) is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated events in the world of college sports. Each year, four top-ranked teams clash in a series of exhilarating matchups, competing for the ultimate glory and the coveted national championship title. However, no playoff system is without scrutiny, and the CFP has faced its fair share of controversies. This year may take the proverbial cake, however.

As the four playoff teams were revealed on Disney-owned ESPN this week, Michigan, Washington, Texas, and Alabama were selected to compete for this year’s national championship.

Both Michigan and Washington completed their respective seasons with perfect records, earning them a place in the playoffs. Texas, who lost one game, bolstered a BIG 12 Championship and an early season win over Alabama to get them in. But the real controversy comes at the number four spot.

Although Alabama, the winningest team in playoff history, took an early season loss to Texas, they would finish out undefeated in conference play, ultimately beating the two-time reigning National Champion Georgia Bulldogs, earning them the final spot in the college football playoffs.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with Disney and Ron DeSantis; well, we’re quickly getting there. What makes Alabama a controversial pick is that they were awarded the fourth spot over an undefeated Florida State team that won their conference championship.

Sadly, highly talented FSU starting quarterback Jordan Travis went down with a season-ending injury in the second-to-last week of the season, and since then, FSU’s offense has been winning but performing less than stellar compared to other teams.

Therefore, the Playoff Committee, which is in charge of evaluating teams and picking the final four, made the decision to put what they felt to be a much more competitive Alabama team in over FSU.

Ron DeSantis Threatens to Take Disney to Court on a New Front

Shortly after the reveal was made on ESPN, social media erupted with a tirade of upset FSU fans who felt that they should’ve been included despite losing their quarterback. ESPN media personnel in New York, Texas, and all over the United States made their expert analysis. Still, those close to the state of Florida and Florida State University were not happy.

ESPN college gameday

Credit: ESPN

Since then, legislatures from across the state of Florida have been threatening legal action against the committee, despite their bylaws taking into account the loss of prominent players when making their final decision.

Some social media accounts and legislators such as Ron DeSantis fear there is something much dirtier at play. They suggest that ESPN, who owns the broadcasting rights to the SEC (Alabama’s conference), stands to make a pretty penny from their inclusion in the playoff (as an SEC team has never been left out).

florida governor ron desantis disney lawsuit lose presidential

Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

For this reason, DeSantis has asked for a $1 million budget of taxpayer funds to bring an investigation and potential lawsuit against the committee regarding the expulsion of FSU from the playoff field.

Regency Bias and ESPN’s Impact on College Football

ESPN, the world-renowned sports media giant, has long been a trusted source for sports news and analysis. However, some critics argue that the network showcases bias in its coverage of college football, specifically pertaining to its treatment of certain teams, conferences, and players.

Targeting Certain Conferences: One of the main accusations leveled against ESPN is that it favors certain conferences over others in its coverage. Critics claim that conferences like the SEC and ACC receive more airtime and favorable analysis, while others, such as the Pac-12 or Big 12, are neglected or portrayed less favorably.

Favoritism Towards Popular Programs: Critics argue that ESPN tends to give more coverage to well-established, successful football programs, often at the expense of underdog teams or smaller conferences. This alleged favoritism can create imbalances in media attention and perpetuate the dominance of certain programs.

Related: Disney History: How Donald Duck Became a College Football Mascot

Biased Reporting in Game Analysis: Another facet of ESPN’s alleged bias lies in its game analysis during live broadcasts. Critics argue that commentators sometimes display favoritism towards certain teams, impacting the overall perception and fairness of their coverage. Biased commentary can influence viewers’ perception of a game or a player’s performance.

One counterargument is that ESPN’s coverage focuses more on teams, conferences, and players that generate the highest viewership and engagement. As a business, ESPN prioritizes delivering content that attracts the largest audience, which may naturally result in giving more coverage to popular programs and conferences.

ESPN maintains that their coverage reflects the overall strength and competitiveness of football programs. They argue that highly successful teams receive more attention because they consistently perform well, making them more newsworthy. According to ESPN, their coverage is influenced by on-field results rather than bias.

ESPN contends that their analysts and commentators are professional journalists with expertise in college football. They claim that these experts strive to provide unbiased analysis based on their knowledge and experience. Any perceived bias could be a result of individual preferences rather than institutional bias.

Influence on Rankings and Recruiting: The alleged bias in ESPN’s coverage could potentially impact college football rankings and recruitment decisions. If certain teams consistently receive more positive or negative coverage, it may influence the perception of their performance, affecting their rankings and ability to attract top recruits.

Mickey Mouse Ron DeSantis

Credit: Disney/ABC

Media Responsibility and Fairness: Critics argue that ESPN has a responsibility to provide fair and impartial coverage, considering its position as a leading sports media outlet. The network’s alleged bias could undermine the integrity of their analysis and affect the public’s perception of college football.

The question of ESPN’s bias in college football remains a contentious topic. While some accuse the network of favoritism towards certain conferences and teams in its coverage, counterarguments suggest that market demand, on-field performance, and individual preferences might contribute to any perceived bias. As consumers of sports media, it is crucial for viewers to critically evaluate the content they consume and seek a diverse range of perspectives to form well-rounded opinions.

Ron DeSantis Changes Tactics

Coming off the potentially damaging ordeal with Bob Iger and the Reedy Creek District, it could be that Ron DeSantis is changing his tactics. As many feel that ESPN plays a large role in the selection process in who makes the College Football Playoff and who doesn’t, a new fight on a new front could be a way of continuing to fight the giant entertainment company on more advantageous ground.

Disney DeSantis

Credit: Disney and ABC

Despite the criteria for leaving out FSU being written into their bylaws, the ACC’s refusal to sign off on a playoff expansion for this season (that would have seen FSU included in the final field of teams), and disregarding Alabama’s dominant win over the best team in college football for the last two seasons, the pressure from school administrators, Senators, and now the governor of the State of Florida is likely to be undisruptive at best.

In a state where insurance rates are forcing individuals to sell their homes, groceries have sky-rocketed in price, and drug and human trafficking issues are at their highest, one might assume that the statement made by DeSantis (which he published on X) regarding college football lacks precedent over real issues plaguing his governed states at the moment. Still, we all know that in the south, football is king.

This post is originally appeared on Disney Dining.

About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!

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