The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, where the bulk of Walt Disney World Resort is found, has cancelled progams for diversity, equity, and inclusion. This echos moves by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a state level. Governor DeSantis has been cutting these types of initiatives in high education and other places. The board for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which was appointed by Governor DeSantis, now appears to be doing the same.
The board for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District announced that it would be eliminating its diversity, equity and inclusion committee. On top of that, any job duties related to the committee would also be eliminated. The board also ended initiatives that awarded contracts which were based on goals of achieving both racial or gender equality. These initiatives were left over from the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was dissolved by Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature and then replaced by the new governing entity. This came after Disney came out against the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year and earned the ire of Governor DeSantis.
Glen Gilzean, who is the new administrator for the district, said the initiatives were “illegal and simply un-American.” Gilzean is African American and a former head of the Central Florida Urban League. Gilzean, an ally of Governor DeSantis, formerly had been appointed to the Florida Commission on Ethics by the Governor.
“Our district will no longer participate in any attempt to divide us by race or advance the notion that we are not created equal,” Gilzean said in a statement. “As the former head of the Central Florida Urban League, a civil rights organization, I can say definitively that our community thrives only when we work together despite our differences.”
Many of the diversity initiatives of the district came from its close partnership with The Walt Disney Company. Disney is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Disney is committed to “developing and retaining a diverse workforce, fostering a company culture that is welcoming and respectful, creating content and experiences that resonate with our global audiences, and collaborating with community organizations to make our industries more accessible to all.” The policies in the former Reedy Creek Improvement District were very much in line with this.
At this time, Disney has not commented on the ending of these diversity, equity and inclusion programs in the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. The district is home to a bulk of Walt Disney World Resort and until recently, had a very good relationship with Disney. However, after the feud developed with Governor DeSantis, the goals and agendas between the district and Disney have diverged.
For its part, Disney continues to move forward with its goals of making magic and treating people with dignity and respect. Disney CEO Bob Iger has flat out said that he has no interest in Disney getting into a culture war with Florida or its governor. Governer DeSantis, however, has different plans. He continues to attack “woke Disney” as he continues his campaign for President.
At the end of the day, this feud between Disney and Governor DeSantis will be decided by the courts. There is a lawsuit in federal court accusing the Governor and Florida leaders including the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District of retaliation against Disney’s first ammendment protected free speach and also “weaponizing government.”
The outcome of this lawsuit will determine the future of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District/Reedy Creek Improvement District. If Disney gets it way, everything could reset back to what it was before the Governor dissolved the district. If DeSantis wins, the new iteration of the district will keep moving forward. There is also the possibility that the final decision will be somewhere in between. If Disney gets its way, this will be determined next summer when the lawsuit goes to court. Governor DeSantis’ team would like to see this case delayed or dismissed.