Scott Maxwell: Could Disney leave Florida because of DeSantis? No

Tribune Content Agency

We’re going to catch up on what some of Florida’s overshadowed politicians have been up to lately — with Marco Rubio battling Major League Baseball and Rick Scott issuing his own personal travel advisory.

But first I wanted to address a question many readers have asked after national politicians and pundits raised the issue: Is there any chance Disney might leave Florida to escape Ron DeSantis?

Let’s cut to the chase: No.

And how do I say this gently? Frankly, it’s a ridiculous question — like Tweedle Dum ridiculous.

Yes, DeSantis is hounding Disney like Cruella de Vil on a puppy hunt. And yes, everyone from former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to North Carolina legislators have invited Disney to relocate to their states. But those folks sound nuttier than Chip and Dale.

You’re more likely to see DeSantis dress up as Tinker Bell than you are to see Disney leave Florida. Disney has more money invested in Orlando than Scrooge McDuck could count.

The park land itself is about 40 square miles. Do you know how big that is? It’s the size of Paris. Asking whether Disney might move is like asking whether Paris might pick up the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre-Dame cathedral and head to Luxembourg. And actually, Disney has pumped more money into Epcot and fake France than real France has spent on the cathedral.

Disney’s investment is so big, it’s hard to fathom. But to put things in perspective, consider just one relatively tiny piece — a single ride. Back in 2006, Disney spent about $100 million on the Expedition Everest coaster in Animal Kingdom.

Now that’s $100 million on just one ride … in just one theme park … actually in just one of six different lands at that one theme park … which is just one of four different theme parks total. And that says nothing of the water parks, hotels, Disney Springs and the monorail system that DeSantis recently started eyeing the way Shere Khan eyed the man cub.

Sure, I get that folks like Haley — who also has her eye on the GOP nomination for the White House — want to troll DeSantis. (She offered to relocate 70,000 Disney jobs to the Palmetto State where Haley said residents are “not woke, but we’re not sanctimonious about it either.”)

And we understand why Democratic lawmakers in North Carolina would do the same. (The North Carolina Senate leader said: “Florida doesn’t seem a good fit for the happiest place on earth these days” and stressed that “In NC, y’all still means all.”)

But no matter how many pundits, politicians and publications pose the question, Disney isn’t abandoning an investment that rivals the GDP of Rhode Island simply because of a spat and legal fight with a politician. Especially when Disney knows it was here long before Ron DeSantis and will be here long after.

Rubio vs. the Dodgers

Marco Rubio has been politicking around Florida for decades and doesn’t much care for the way DeSantis is getting all the attention these days. So last week, Rubio tried to dip his toes in the culture-war pool that has made DeSantis so popular among the red-meat crowd.

Rubio’s target? A nonprofit group in Los Angeles that dresses up as drag versions of nuns and was slated to be honored by the L.A. Dodgers for their philanthropic work in that community.

When Rubio heard that the often-satirical Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were slated to be honored by the Dodgers, he wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

“The ‘sisters’ are men who dress in lewd imitation of Roman Catholic nuns,” Rubio wrote, going on to say that honoring them would be “an outrage and a tragedy.”

Well, Rubio got the attention he desired from everyone from ESPN to MLB. And for a brief moment, the Dodgers did what he asked and uninvited the sisters to their stadium.

But then, the Dodgers not only changed their mind and re-invited the Sisters, they apologized for momentarily cowing to Rubio’s demands, saying the team appreciated the sisters’ efforts to raise money for HIV/AIDS and breast cancer research and stressing that the team was committed to respecting “all of our fans who make up the diversity of the Dodgers family.”

That made Rubio even angrier. He tweeted that “Shamefully, (but not surprisingly) the @dodgers have been bullied into apologizing to & ‘re-inviting’ a group of anti-Catholic bigots.”

So Rubio didn’t get his way. But he did get his headlines about the Florida senator taking on a California baseball team.

Rick Scott vs. socialism

Not to be outdone, Florida’s junior senator, Rick Scott, also tried to get in on a bit of the culture-war action.

After some minority groups issued travel advisories warning that their members might not feel safe or valued in Florida, Scott decided to issue one of his own — a “TRAVEL ADVISORY FOR SOCIALISTS VISITING FLORIDA,” warning them that “Florida is openly hostile toward Socialists, Communists and those that enable them.”

Scott’s announcement scored him a piece on the Fox News website and some attention from London’s Daily Mail. But overall, he got less attention than DeSantis or Rubio and just generally generated head-scratching.

In fact, a correspondent for the New Republic, who apparently worried readers might think he was pulling their leg, felt compelled to tweet Scott’s announcement with this disclaimer: “This is an actual press release from a former governor and current United States senator.”