Social Justice Game Changer: Mayor Buddy Dyer
Name: Mayor Buddy Dyer
Game Honored: Orlando Magic vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (5/9/21)
At every game at Amway Center this season, the Orlando Magic and Head Coach Steve Clifford recognized an individual who has gone above and beyond to make lasting, positive changes in this community.
Among those who have done just that is Buddy Dyer, Orlando’s mayor since 2003. Since taking office, he has spearheaded many initiatives to help this city blossom and launched many programs that provide vital resources to at-risk children and families. Protecting the health and well-being of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating action plans to end systemic racism, addressing housing and homelessness challenges and diversifying Central Florida’s economy are some of his latest key efforts.
In September 2020, for example, just a few months after the George Floyd tragedy, Dyer and city commissioners teamed up with Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon to announce the Community Trust & Equity Initiative, a major step toward making sure every person in the community feels equally valued, equally protected and has equitable access to opportunities. Through this initiative, reforms and programs are being identified and implemented to ensure that police policies and training translates into officers working better and together with the community.
Just a few weeks after it launched, Orlando police officers attended the first of several training seminars with Bethune-Cookman University’s Dr. Randy Nelson, also one of Clifford’s social justice game changers. He shared his insight with the officers and they discussed ideas to build and maintain community trust. It’s that kind of collaboration that is helping empower the people of this community and showing them that their voice matters too.
“One of the things I value most about Orlando is that we embrace diversity, equality and inclusion and we do it as a community, not as a city government. So, it’s inspiring to see so many different community organizations and residents and businesses that are all about the work of inclusion and equity,” Dyer said.
A few months ago, Dyer hired Orlando’s first ever equity official, Merchon Green, another recent Magic honoree. She is working to help embed equity and inclusion throughout Orlando and ensuring that all departments across city government aren’t siloed. Read about her journey here.
On June 12, 2016, Orlando experienced its darkest day in its history when 49 people were killed and 53 others were wounded during a mass shooting inside the Pulse nightclub. In the days that followed, the community came together and showed a level of compassion that made Dyer extremely proud.
“We weren’t defined by that one hateful act. We were defined by our response and that was all the acts of love and compassion,” he said. “Everything from donating blood to donating money to the OneOrlando Fund to standing up for LGBTQ rights and concerns. The Magic played a large role in a lot of different aspects of that. Alex Martins (Magic CEO), in fact, chaired our committee that created the OneOrlando Fund.”
Dyer has partnered with the Magic on many community initiatives over the years. Just this week, for instance, they announced that they are teaming up to provide 2,300 Central Floridians doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Amway Center. The Moderna vaccine will be available to anyone 18 years or older, and there is no out-of-pocket cost at the May 13 event.
The Magic’s philanthropic approach is a huge boost to the city, says Dyer. One example of the enormous impact they’ve made, he points out, came in the fall of 2020 when the Amway Center was turned into an early voting site. Increasing voting awareness and access was an overriding theme throughout the NBA prior to the election and will continue to be for future elections.
“I think we are very fortunate in our community to have sports organizations that have stepped up in so many ways other than just on the court or on the field and certainly the Magic are leaders in that area, being involved in youth programs and being very active,” Dyer said. “It’s important because the Magic are a very high-profile organization within our community so people follow what the players, coaches and the ownership are doing.”
Prior to being elected mayor, Dyer served for a decade in the Florida Senate. Born in Orlando and raised in Kissimmee, he earned his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Brown University and his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Florida College of Law.
About the Program: As part of the Magic and Clifford’s continuing efforts toward social justice reform, he created the Social Justice Game Changer program to honor one local leader who has made a difference in the realm of social justice issues. A cause close to his heart, Clifford is extremely active in programs that support equality and justice for all people in the Central Florida community.
Through this program, Clifford looks to put the spotlight on those continuously doing the hard work, day in and day out, fighting for sustainable change. As part of his program, one person is selected and honored each game. The honorees are given tickets, provided by Clifford, to the game and featured in-arena on the Magic Vision screen at center court.
“The purpose is to honor and to celebrate so many of the people in the Orlando community who are fighting for change and who commit their lives to making Orlando a better place,” Clifford said. “It’s just a way to celebrate them, what they stand for, and what they do for our community.”