Is Ron DeSantis Taking His Culture War to the Tampa Bay Rays?

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has sparked a new feud with yet another private company in Florida over its "political activism."

On Friday, the governor defended his decision to veto $35 million in funding for a potential spring training site for the Tampa Bay Rays after the team made a commitment to creating "actionable change" in response to last week's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and pledged a $50,000 donation to Everytown for Gun Safety.

"I don't support giving taxpayer dollars to professional sports stadiums," DeSantis said at a press briefing. "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."

"It's also inappropriate to subsidize political activism of a private corporation," he said.

This is the second battle DeSantis has waged with a private company over its political beliefs.

Earlier this year, the governor clashed with Disney after the company publicly opposed the state's parental rights bill—also dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill—going so far as to revoke Disney World's special governing status.

Some have suggested the fights DeSantis has picked recently lay the groundwork for a potential 2024 presidential run and appeal to voters on a national level. But some conservatives have criticized the governor's efforts to punish businesses over their politics, suggesting that those moves run counter to Republican beliefs.

DeSantis Gun Safety Rays
On Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defended his decision to veto $35 million in funding for a potential spring training site for the Tampa Bay Rays. Above, DeSantis speaks during a news conference at the University of Miami Health System Don Soffer Clinical Research Center on May 17 in Miami. Joe Raedle/Getty

"I don't believe that government should be punitive against private businesses because we disagree with them," Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson told CNN last month.

"To me, that's the old Republican principle of having restrained government," he added. "Let's do the right thing—it's a fair debate about these special tax privileges—but let's not go after businesses and punish them because we disagree with what they said."

Jenna Ellis, a former attorney for former President Donald Trump, even offered her legal services to Disney, despite disagreeing with the company's position.

"The right to disagree with our government is a hallmark of American liberty," Ellis previously told Newsweek, adding, "What Florida is doing is illegal and unconstitutional."

While it remains unclear whether the Rays will rebuke DeSantis' financial punishment over their commitment to gun safety, much like Disney did in April, the Major League Baseball team seemed focused on working to tackle gun violence.

"We all deserve to be safe—in schools, grocery store, places of worship, our neighborhoods, houses and America. The most recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have shaken us to the core," the team said last week. "This cannot become normal. We cannot become numb. We cannot look the other way. We all know, if nothing changes, nothing changes."

"We understand that no single organization can solve this crisis alone, but working together, we can make an impact," the Rays said in the statement announcing its $50,000 donation and its decision to use its social media to offer facts about gun violence instead of covering its game on May 26.

Newsweek reached out to the Tampa Bay Rays for comment.