The e-mail was as curt as it was disturbing.
"I have been advised that it would not work out well for us since our owner, Rich DeVos, and Pat himself are portrayed in a negative light in the book…”
I had been disinvited from appearing on the WORL-FM radio program of Orlando Magic Vice President Pat Williams to discuss my new book Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love. In the book, I write about how Orlando Magic owner Dick DeVos, has for four decades been the fundraiser-in-chief for the right-wing edge of the Republican Party. I write about how his nonprofit, the DeVos Foundation, has pumped millions into groups that support radical reparative gay therapy, anti-evolution politics and other "traditional" family values. The organizations they support include Focus on the Family, the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Media Research Center among many others.
I write about DeVos’ own history as a founding member of an organization called the Council for National Policy (CNP). The CNP is a secret organization that makes the Masons look like paparazzi-hungry starlets. Formed and launched by the elite of the John Birch society, Dick DeVos is a two-time CNP President. Another leading member of the CNP was a fellow Michigan-based billionaire by the name of Edgar Prince. In what can only be described as a royal coupling, Edgar Prince's daughter, Betsy, married Dick's son, Dick Jr. Edgar Prince's son, Erik Prince, would become CEO of the infamous Blackwater corporation. Blackwater is the company of private mercenaries, hired to help occupy Iraq, Afghanistan, and even post-Katrina New Orleans. Famous for rolling through Baghdad in black SUVs, rock music blaring, and making 100 times the pay of a US soldier, they are the outsourced army as rampaging fraternity. Since 2000, Blackwater had received $505 million in government contracts, two-thirds of which came in no-bid contracts. This isn't a vast right-wing conspiracy: it's been an openly incestuous and highly beneficial coupling between the DeVos/Prince clan and the Republican Party.
Of course, DeVos has every right to support whatever organizations he wishes. But maybe we should be concerned that DeVos is also receiving hundreds of millions in corporate welfare to open a new $480 million home for the Orlando Magic that will be at the heart of a $1.1 billion Orlando mega-entertainment complex. Maybe we should be concerned that millions of our public tax dollars go into Dick DeVos's hands, and that money is then used to underwrite organizations many taxpayers, not to mention sports fans, would find noxious.
I was excited to go on Pat Williams' show and discuss these issues. Honestly, I was shocked—and impressed—that they asked me on in the first place. But alas that will never be. Instead, a critique of DeVos I made on the radio and television program Democracy Now, was seized upon by DeVos’ media gutter fighters at Newsbusters and Red State.
These radical-right websites bravely stepped forward to protect the integrity and good name of pro sports owners. Yes, billionaires getting billions more in public subsidies are the real victims in twenty-first-century America. I thought this crowd was against pork projects and bloated deficits. But when the "welfare queens" in question are their billion-dollar sugar daddies, they courageously rise in anger.
The post titled "NBA Fans Shouldn't Back the Blackwater Magic? Zany Zirin's Sports Analogies" reads, "Do the Orlando Magic, support war in Iraq? That's what MSNBC's favorite leftist sports guru, Dave Zirin of The Nation magazine, argued on taxpayer-subsidized Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now on Friday. Blackwater CEO Erik Prince is the brother-in-law of Magic owner (and conservative funder) Dick DeVos. So Zirin thought NBA fans ought to think twice.… His Pacifica interviewers weren't going to ask about leftist sports team owners using publicly funded stadiums for fundraisers. Does Zirin really believe that's never happened?" This is stupidity masquerading as journalism. Forget that Price isn't DeVos's brother-in-law. In the book I go through chapter and verse, the political contributions of owners. And no, there is no billion dollar sugar daddy in an owner’s box funding The Nation the way Lakers minority owner Phil Anschutz underwrites his money-hemorrhaging operation at The Weekly Standard.
So to sum up: I thought I was going to appear on Pat Williams show to have an honest debate about the ethics of Dick DeVos's operation. Instead I was "breitbarted" by his apparatchiks on the radical right. I am still open to having that discussion with Pat Williams at the time and place of his choosing. Until that time, you'll forgive me for assuming that Dick DeVos is far comfortable doing his business in the shadows of American politics than exposing them to the light of day. Sports fans of the Orlando Magic and taxpayers in the state of Florida deserve far better.
[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing email@example.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]