“Seats for Soldiers”: Orlando Magic honor fallen soldiers with personalized team jerseys

ORLANDO, Fla. — Some seats for Sunday’s Orlando Magic game were reserved for soldiers, including some who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

For the last 17 years, the Magic have dedicated one game to American soldiers, thanking them for their service.

The military regularly partners with professional sports for promotions and recruiting, but Sunday’s ceremony was purely about honoring the people who have already given their lives for the country.

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The Magic displayed official team jerseys with the names of fallen soldiers on them who gave their lives on the battlefield, or afterward through post-war struggles with PTSD.

As the grandson of a soldier, Orlando Magic point guard Cole Anthony says the ceremony was particularly meaningful for him.

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“I just have a lot of respect for people who serve this country,” Anthony says. “It was an awesome moment. I was very happy we were able to do that.”

The crowd for Sunday’s game was limited to 3,500 because of COVID-19 protocols. More than 450 of those seats were donated to members of the military, including the families of the fallen soldiers whose names were on the backs of the jerseys.

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“I think like a lot of people, I come from a family of people who are, and did dedicate their lives to our country through being in the military,” Magic Coach Steve Clifford said. “They allow us to live the lives that we lead and, you know, the Magic do so many great things. We should all honor people who represent our country.”

After the ceremony, the players signed the jerseys and gave them to the families of the fallen soldiers.

Joe Kepner, WFTV.com

I unloaded the U-Haul in Orlando in 2008, just in time to cover the Magic's run to the 2009 NBA Finals.