Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 1.30.22

Donald Trump hauled in lots of cash, and Charlie Crist is feeling good after the latest poll.

State Sen. Joe Gruters recently introduced a bill to require Florida’s professional sports teams to play the national anthem before every game, which they already do.

He reasoned that these teams play in taxpayer-subsidized stadiums, so, by golly, they’re going to play the anthem.

Given that logic, I have a better suggestion for Mr. Gruters. If he wants to target the state’s pro teams to score political points, file a bill requiring their owners to actually try to win every game. We might make an exemption for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But seriously, given the explosive allegations from former Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores, there’s a stench coming from the owner’s box. Flores claimed that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross asked Flores to deliberately lose games two years ago so the team could get the top draft position.

Flores said the bounty was $100,000 extra over his contract for each loss.

They needed a quarterback, and the consensus top pick was LSU’s Joe Burrow. Flores, aghast at the thought of deliberately trying to lose, won five games that season and drafted fifth.

Burrow went No. 1 to Cincinnati, which is now in the Super Bowl. Miami took Tua Tagovaiola, and Flores got fired, even though the Dolphins had a winning record this season.

Losing deliberately to improve a team’s draft position is called tanking, and it does happen. It also cheats the fans who pay a lot of money on tickets, parking and overpriced beer to watch these games.

Ross denied Flores’ allegations, so it comes down to which one you trust. In this instance, I trust Flores. In firing Flores, Ross said the coach wasn’t a team player with him and the team’s general manager.

Before all this came out, Flores, who is Black, was considered a hot commodity for teams looking for new head coaches. The NFL requires teams to interview at least one Black candidate when these openings occur.

He was days away from interviewing with the New York Giants when he inadvertently found out from Bill Belichick that the team already had an agreement in place to hire a White coach. With the issue already decided, Flores said his interview was a sham designed to satisfy the NFL rule.

That’s when he went nuclear and sued the NFL and three teams over the lack of opportunities for Black candidates to become head coaches. By doing so, Flores may have Kaepernicked himself and his career.

What does any of this have to do with politics?

Pro football is big business in Florida and elsewhere, and wealthy owners frequently seek taxpayer subsidies from the state and local cities. So, how about this: Since it’s hard to prove a team is deliberately trying to lose, amend my proposed bill to say that these billionaire owners don’t get one red cent from the state.

Not. One. Red. Cent. Ever.

OK, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Val Demings. She raked in $7.2 million for the last three months of 2021, which was $2 million more than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the same period.

Demings, a Democrat, is running to unseat Rubio in November. It was the third consecutive quarter that she raised more cash than Rubio.

With Democrats desperately trying to hold on to control of the Senate, this race could be the most-watched one in the country. Respected political analyst Larry Sabato has the race “likely Republican” at the moment.

However, Demings has amassed enough cash to change that prediction, perhaps.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Charlie Crist. The latest poll by GBAO Strategies shows Crist with a substantial lead over Nikki Fried and Annette Taddeo in the Democratic gubernatorial Primary.

Crist’s campaign commissioned the poll and released the results, but why not? The findings would seem to be excellent news for the former Governor and current U.S. Representative.

The survey of 800 likely Primary voters had Crist at 54%, Fried at 28%, and Taddeo at 7%. Another 11% said they were undecided.

Crist also led in all regions of the state, along with White, Black and Hispanic voters.

Crist has staked out the moderate lane while Fried and Taddeo battle for the progressive vote.

The poll has a 3.5 percentage point margin of error.

Independent polls have Crist trailing Gov. Ron DeSantis by about 6 percentage points.

The biggest winner: Donald Trump. This has nothing to do with his policies, lies or possible crimes that included trying to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election. No, it’s about his bulging bank account. The New York Times reported the former President’s political machine raised more than $51 million in the second half of 2021.

For some perspective, earlier in this piece, we praised Val Demings for raising $7.2 million in the last quarter of 2021.

Trump entered this year with $122 million in the bank.

That is more than double the amount held by the Republican National Committee. So when Trump says he is bigger than the GOP, well, maybe so.

That kind of cash represents a hill as daunting as Mount Olympus to potential challengers (yes, even DeSantis).


Dishonorable mention: Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony. The State Ethics Commission has received the results of an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into whether Tony misrepresented his past on documents he completed when applying to become a police officer.

In March 2021, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel detailed many issues in Tony’s past that he had not revealed. The report included that when Tony was 14 in Philadelphia, he shot and killed an 18-year-old man. Tony claimed self-defense and stood trial.

Florida has strict laws about full disclosure for anyone applying to join a police force, even if that person was exonerated — as Tony was.

The newspaper noted, “Tony landed his first job as a police officer in 2005 with the Coral Springs Police Department. He was 26. The city job application asked many questions to discover if he’d been in any trouble with the law, even as a juvenile. Tony answered that he’d never been a suspect in a criminal investigation, never been arrested, never been charged. They were all lies.”

Tony had multiple other issues, as detailed in the news report.

The range of recommendations from the Ethics Commission could swing from no action to Tony’s removal from office. The final decision rests with DeSantis, who told reporters, “We’re going to review everything.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Congressional redistricting. The House abruptly canceled a Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee hearing after DeSantis asked the Florida Supreme Court to advise whether Florida’s 5th Congressional District passes state constitutional muster.

Translation: The House planned to release its congressional maps last week, but the process is on hold while justices consider the request.

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson represents CD 5, which runs from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, a distance of about 165 miles. The state Supreme Court approved that map in 2015, and both the House and Senate versions this year keep it roughly the same.

However, DeSantis has targeted the district and submitted his own map in an unusual move. If approved, it probably would turn a blue district red.

DeSantis’ staff has called CD 5 an unconstitutional gerrymander.

So, we wait.

The biggest loser: Sports betting/Las Vegas Sands. The push to get an amendment proposal on the 2022 General Election ballot to legalize online sports betting is, for now, over.

Florida Education Champions, funded by fantasy sports platforms DraftKings and FanDuel, missed the deadline to have enough verified signatures on petitions promoting the gambling expansion.

Also, Florida Voters In Charge, a group backed by the Las Vegas Sands Corp. of Nevada, fell well short of having enough verified signatures for an amendment proposal to build a North Florida casino.

That group has sued for more time, but state law is clear about the deadline to submit the signatures.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Charles

    February 6, 2022 at 11:43 am

    This is what Henderson- formal sportswriter turned political hack does. Throws around a few facts then inserts his bias, wrapped up with yellow journalism and Trump hatred.
    Trump Example – This has nothing to do with his policies, lies or possible crimes that included trying to illegally overturn the 2021 presidential election.
    Isn’t it past time to kick Henderson to the trash heap. The answer is YES

    • Mother Superior Anterior, Mae West Academy for Gifted Girls

      February 6, 2022 at 3:06 pm

      Charles, Charles, Charles, bless your heart, will you ever understand? Mister Henderson is an opinion columnist and his column is clearly filed under FP’s “Emails and Opinions” section. As an opinion columnist, he is very much expected to “throw around a few facts” and interpret them as he pleases.
      And Charles, once again I must remind you that the English language is a precise instrument and should be used precisely. To call Mister Henderson a “formal sportswriter” is to conjure up an image of him wearing a tuxedo while writing about baseball players scratching their crotches. Wasn’t there some other word you were groping for?

  • tom palmer

    February 6, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    Uh, the election occurred in 2020

Comments are closed.


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