The Orlando Magic have obvious reasons for wanting to keep Dwight Howard in Orlando, and they’re willing to pay big bucks to make it happen. But they’re not the only team in Central Florida putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to holding on to the city’s biggest star.
On Monday, the Orlando Predators, an Arena Football League team that has called Central Florida home since 1991, pledged $25,000 to Howard’s D12 Foundation if the six-time All-Star re-signs with the Magic.
In addition to announcing the news on Twitter, the team also set up a Facebook page called Pledge with the Preds, urging fans to make their own similar pledges to keep Howard in a Magic uniform.
“Dwight means a lot to the Central Florida community, and the Predators want to do their part to help convince him to stay with the Magic,” Predators managing partner Brett Bouchy said in a statement. “We’re hoping that other Central Florida companies and organizations will also get behind this effort to keep Dwight where he belongs.”
In December, Howard, who can become a free agent at the end of this season, requested a trade from the Magic. He listed New Jersey, Los Angeles and Dallas as his preferred destinations. The Magic have since given Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, permission to talk to these teams and negotiate trades, but at the moment, a trade doesn’t seem imminent.
Last week, Magic general manager Otis Smith spoke with FOX Sports regarding Howard’s future.
“I don’t think anything has changed,” Smith said, confirming that Howard has not backed off his trade request and the team has not wavered in their desire to keep him. “Nothing has changed on his end; nothing has changed on my end, at this point. . . . I don’t think it gets in your head any more or any less. It is what it is.”
Howard spent most of the All-Star festivities in Orlando last weekend dodging questions about his future. He told reporters that he wanted to make the weekend about the city and the event, while often referring to Orlando as “my city.”
But as the NBA’s March 15 trade deadline draws closer and Howard’s saga unfolds in the public eye, the media coverage of Howard’s future will only pick up.
“This is a new breed,” Smith said, referring to his six years as an NBA player from 1986-92. “This didn’t happen back in our day. Guys just played and dealt with it quietly if they dealt with it at all.”
Howard’s D12 Foundation, which was founded in 2010, works with children in Central Florida by helping to support several non-profit organizations around Orlando. On Feb. 14, Howard hosted an event for 300 children from the Parramore Kidz Zone, leading Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer to proclaim the day D12 Foundation Day.
The Predators, who share the Amway Center with the Magic and also played alongside the franchise at the old Amway Arena, have made 19 consecutive AFL playoff appearances and appeared in the Arena Bowl — the AFL’s version of the Super Bowl — seven times, winning league titles in 1998 and 2000.