This thesis analyzes the formation of two National Basketball Association (NBA) franchises—the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic—and the efforts of groups representing both cities to procure those franchises between 1982 and 1987. Drawing primarily from discourse found in local newspapers, this thesis serves as a case study of the dual nature of sport to both unite and divide communities. While proponents of the NBA in Miami and Orlando preached the social, cultural, and economic benefits of sport, they ignored the ways in which the pursuit of sport divided local governments and perpetuated historic hostility toward African-American residents in each city. Debates over basketball arena funding created deep divisions within and between city, county, and state governments. Arena construction ultimately displaced hundreds of families in the historically African-American neighborhoods of Overtown (Miami) and Parramore (Orlando). Still, prospective NBA franchise owners in each city promised residents that professional sport would galvanize their community, provide national relevance, and spur economic revitalization. Although city and team officials attempted to shape the discourse surrounding their NBA pursuit as wholly unifying, underlying discourse revealed divisions within each city. Chapter one explores the history of arena and sport-related politics in Miami, relays the history of racial prejudice by Miami government toward Overtown African Americans, and analyzes how these two histories influenced the funding and location of the city's eventual NBA arena. Similarly, Chapter two explores the history of arena politics in Orlando, relays the history of racial prejudice from municipal government toward Parramore residents, and analyzes the relation of these two elements to the financing and planning of Orlando's arena. Chapter three analyzes prospective NBA ownership groups in Miami and Orlando, their structural makeup, characteristics, and their efforts to sell season-ticket deposits in hopes of luring the league to their city. Chapter four analyzes the underlying destructive discourse surrounding the arenas and prospective franchises, particularly as it relates prejudicial language toward Overtown and Parramore and vitriolic language between Miami and Orlando.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Hillyer, Garrett, "Joining the "Big Leagues": Politics, Race, and the Pursuit of NBA Franchises in Miami and Orlando, 1982-1987" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5129.