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Why Is Disney Suing Ron DeSantis?

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is suing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a man who has gone from getting married at Walt Disney World to generating billion-dollar beef with the company. According to CNN, the lawsuit alleges that DeSantis is infringing on the company’s right to free speech by weaponizing his political power. Critics do not envy DeSantis having to go up against Disney’s legal team. This is the company that had copyright law changed on their behalf, remember? The lawsuit claims DeSantis “now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

Disney first came under attack by DeSantis et al. because the company came out against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. After staff walkouts and a flurry of criticism, the company gave a statement decrying the bill (now law) saying it should be “repealed by the legislature,” and it “should never have passed.”

This rebuke by Florida’s largest employer, plus arguments over vaccine mandates, prompted DeSantis to revoke Disney’s control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District — the special taxing district for the land on which Walt Disney World sits. Under an agreement made back in 1967, Disney had the right to pave roads, control mosquito populations, and even build a nuclear power plant if they so chose. DeSantis signed a bill to dissolve the previous board and create a new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District comprised of people DeSantis chose.

Disney then clapped back in the form of a “royal clause.” Before being dissolved by DeSantis, the old board passed a resolution asserting that its privileges would remain intact “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England living as of the date of this declaration.” And in retaliation to that, DeSantis’ board voted to invalidate that resolution. DeSantis also threatened to build a prison right next to the Magic Kingdom.

“Disney wishes that things could have been resolved a different way,” the lawsuit reads. “But Disney also knows that it is fortunate to have the resources to take a stand against the State’s retaliation – a stand smaller businesses and individuals might not be able to take when the State comes after them for expressing their own views. In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.”

Why Is Disney Suing Ron DeSantis?