Here we are again. Another update on the fight between the Walt Disney Company and the Government of Florida. Or, as I may start referring to it…the Ronny and Bobby Battle. Let’s recap.
The Bill That Started It All
In March of last year (2022), the Florida legislature passed a bill to limit the instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K-3. The bill was criticized by many claiming that it targeted members of the LGBTQ+ community and could cause harm to students who identify as such, as well as teachers.
Since the Walt Disney Company was one of the biggest employers in Florida, there was a lot of pressure put on it to take a stand and fight the bill. Disney CEO Bob Chapek, at the time, decided to stay out of any political battles and keep the company as neutral as he could. However, this stance angered many people both in and around the company. More pressure was put on Bob Chapek to speak out on behalf of the company against the Parental Rights in Education Bill (which others called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill).
Finally, Bob Chapek DID speak out against the bill, but it had already been passed. So Bob Chapek then announced Disney would halt all political donations in Florida.
The Battle for Reedy Creek Improvement District
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pushed back on the Walt Disney Company, claiming that since it was based in California, it had no business getting involved in Florida politics. As such, he threatened to terminate the long-standing privileges that Walt Disney World Resort enjoyed in the state. Although many thought Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Republicans would never be bold enough to go after Disney in such a way (i.e. eliminating the Reedy Creek Improvement District), that’s just what they did.
In 2023, Florida lawmakers worked to create the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which would oversee Walt Disney World Resort’s theme parks and municipal services in the area.
It then came out that the Reedy Creek Improvement District had tried to set up rules and motions to limit the power of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Next came some harsh language by Governor DeSantis (and some more by Disney CEO Bob Iger, who was back running the company). Then came the lawsuits. One by the Walt Disney Company suing Governor Ron DeSantis. And one by the Ron DeSantis Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board against the Walt Disney Company.
A Year Later
And now here we are. Governor Ron DeSantis is running for president and has been criticized by Republican and Democrat politicians for his war with Disney.
Meanwhile, the Walt Disney Company’s stock hasn’t recovered much from its low last year, Disney Plus numbers are falling, the company is not making much money at the box office, and its theme Park attendance has been reported as down. So it doesn’t seem like either party is winning in this fight. However, both continue digging their heels in deeper.
Reported on July 26, the legal team representing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis requested a motion to toss out the lawsuit filed by the Walt Disney Company.
NEW: Disney has responded to Gov. DeSantis' request to dismiss the company's lawsuit. In a filing, Disney says "the Governor seeks to evade responsibility for his actions" and asks the court for a July 15, 2024 court date – the same day as the Republican National Convention. pic.twitter.com/4gnI1lE6Eb
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) July 26, 2023
Disney, however, had no desire to do such a thing. They released the following statement, “The Governor seeks to evade responsibility for his actions on a narrower ground, asserting that a governor cannot be held officially liable for implementing, administering, and enforcing state laws that punish residents for political statements violating a state-prescribed speech code.”
The Walt Disney Company then asked for a court date set on July 15, 2024, the same day as the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, Governor DeSantis and his team have been trying to push the court date until after the 2024 Presidential election.
However this Disney battle ends…one thing’s for sure: we have at least another full year of it.