Minnesota GOP's endorsed Senate candidate has faced court actions over unpaid child support

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Royce White, a George Floyd protest leader and former college basketball star-turned-right-wing Senate candidate in Minnesota, was ordered to catch up after he fell behind on court-mandated child support payments at least a half-dozen times from 2020 to 2023, court filings in two cases show.

White, a father of four, was twice found in contempt of court over the findings, one of them in a Minnesota county where he remains in “constructive contempt,” facing the ongoing threat of a 180-day jail sentence should he again fail to keep up with the payments. The next hearing in that case is set for Oct. 21, two weeks before the election.

White’s candidacy has generated new attention after the Minnesota Republican Party endorsed him this month at its state convention, where he won the support of two-thirds of the voting delegates. He previously lost a GOP primary in a 2022 effort to unseat Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar and has raised a paltry sum for his Senate campaign, according to campaign finance records. But he has caught fire with conservatives by delivering rousing speeches and aiming incendiary, vulgar commentary at critics and opponents online.

White still must survive a contested GOP primary, but the state party has elevated him as former President Donald Trump and his campaign make noise about flipping Minnesota red at the presidential level this fall for the first time since 1972. It has been more than 20 years since a Republican won a Senate seat in the state. And a number of GOP strategists do not think White gets them any closer to beating Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar in November.

Speaking with reporters last week, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, said the campaign committee is looking for “candidates that can win both primaries and generals.” Of White, Daines said, “I think he’d have difficulty winning a general election.”

Asked whether the campaign committee would endorse White if he is the nominee, Daines responded, “I don’t think he could win a general election.” Daines’ committee had warmer things to say this month about Joe Fraser, a retired Navy commander and business executive who is a first-time candidate, whom an NRSC spokesperson called “a political outsider and American hero.” Trump himself has not made an endorsement in the race.

In recent years, as Trump’s MAGA movement has become the dominant force in the GOP, he and allied Republicans have boosted a number of statewide candidates with blemishes in their backgrounds that caught the attention of voters in battleground states. Such candidates underperformed in the 2022 election in particular.

In an interview as well as in lengthy essays he posted online ahead of his first run for office, White has described himself as a loving father who cares for all of his children, and he described the family court system as deeply unfair to men. White, a first-round NBA draft pick in 2012, was initially assessed arrears based on his NBA salary, though he played only a handful of games in the league as he struggled publicly with an anxiety disorder. Courts lowered the total amount he had to pay on a monthly basis in light of the end of his NBA career, but he has since struggled to keep up with his payments.

“Talk about some real issues,” White said in the interview. “A lot of people have child support. A lot of people have alimony. A lot of people have back child support. All you liberals really just want to shame people with kids, because you’re anti-human as f---. That’s it. I love my children. And I’m current on my child support. I pay more child support than probably many people in this country over the course of their lives. It’s really a nothing issue.”

The details of the cases

In Ramsey County, Minnesota, a court found White in contempt in 2018 after he failed to keep up with his payments, according to court filings. After it increased his monthly child support payments from $350 to $794 because of his contract with Big3 Basketball, the court said he was failing to keep up with payments in 2020, 2021 and 2022, the filings show. He was ordered to pay more than $17,000 during those three years to avoid jail time. The court found him to be in compliance with his payments in February 2023 and lowered the monthly amount he owed.

In a separate case in Cottonwood County, Minnesota, a court placed White in contempt in 2020 after he failed to comply with his child support order, according to court records there. The court found him to be behind on his child support payments in both 2022 and 2023 and ordered him to make larger lump-sum payments within weeks of his hearings in both years. Ahead of a hearing last month, the court said White had fulfilled the conditions of his contempt agreement and paid his required support. But it also ruled that he needed to create a structured payment plan with it to address all of his child support obligations by July 1.

White said the media was asking about his back child support because of a broader effort to “paint me another darling of the far right.”

“I’m completely current on my child support obligations as of today. My arrear just stems from a time when I was court-ordered to pay child support and back child support on an NBA salary. That’s how I got behind,” he said. “And the interest rates are so high that if I pay child support every month on time, the interest is the exact same price.”

Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, said Republicans “overlooked” White’s judgments and debts, adding that he was not “properly vetted.”

“It’s up to the public to determine whether something is fair game or not,” Brodkorb said of White’s insistence that the issue is irrelevant to his candidacy. “And they will ultimately decide if it’s relevant to the race. I think they will.”

Brodkorb, who is not a fan of Trump but wants to see Republicans win in Minnesota, has experienced personal controversy himself, having gotten into a serious accident driving under the influence of alcohol 11 years ago, when he was at the apex of his political career.

“It’s a little bit of a con game for him to try to say this stuff doesn’t matter,” Brodkorb said. “There’s just overwhelming evidence that these types of issues, these types of distractions, are not good for candidates.”

White said the Minnesota GOP’s endorsement “has nothing to do with me tricking people or [its] not knowing enough information about my past.”

“They don’t give a f---, because they know people like you are more likely to f--- them than the fact that I owe tens of thousands in back child support,” White said in the interview. “They know better. So you guys better get your f---ing head out of your a--, because I’m telling you the pendulum swings both ways. And I say that as a cautionary tale, not to be threatening. I see it as a genuine cautionary tale.”

An unorthodox political rise

White’s political rise and evolution are a story of its own. A basketball star at Iowa State University and a first-round selection of the Houston Rockets in 2012, he battled mental health struggles and drew positive attention for his efforts to get the NBA to take mental health more seriously. He ended up playing just three games in the league.

With George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020, White led some Black Lives Matter protests in his home state and became a central figure in the protests there. He appeared on MSNBC’s prime-time lineup to discuss issues at the heart of the movement.

An appearance on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program caught the eye of Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House official and right-wing media personality who is influential in the MAGA movement. Bannon later took interest in the fact that White led protests against the Federal Reserve in Minneapolis, and an intermediary who knew both men — and learned that White was a fan of Bannon’s show — connected them.

“He’s got rough edges,” Bannon, one of White’s most prominent boosters, said in an interview. “He’s got some opinions I obviously don’t agree with, but he’s a patriot. He’s a leader, a warrior. He’s a rising star in the MAGA movement.”

Diving into electoral politics, White won attention for his incendiary language and use of epithets online. He has posted slurs about former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and other political figures and used a homophobic slur — which he has posted multiple times on X — to describe reporters who have written stories about him.

On his podcast, White has said Trump “could get up onstage, pull his pants down, take a s--- up at the podium, and I still would never vote for you f---ing Democrats again.”

At the convention where he won the state GOP endorsement for the Senate, White said he was supporting Trump “unequivocally,” adding that the election is “not about my personal flaws and shortcomings.”

He has campaigned against appropriating assistance for Ukraine and rising federal debt and the increases in undocumented immigration and “forever wars.” At the convention, he pledged to filibuster all omnibus legislation — bills covering multiple subjects combined into a single package.

In light of his controversies, Brodkorb said, White “is the most unqualified, ill-prepared candidate that’s ever been endorsed in modern time by a major political party in this state.”

But White’s allies see the issues less as baggage than as relatable biographical points for some of the working-class voters the party needs to convert to have any hope of beating Klobuchar in the fall.

“He’s far from a perfect person. He’s a very flawed instrument,” Bannon said. “But the last time I looked in MAGA, we’ve got a couple of pretty flawed instruments that have done pretty well.”

Darrin Rosha, a former member of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents who nominated White at the state convention, said he gravitated toward White after having seen local conservatives be energized by a few of his recent speeches, adding that he had to look up Bannon on Wikipedia because, Rosha said, he isn’t “big on federal stuff.” He acknowledged White has “a lot of what people would describe as baggage,” adding that his wife was concerned by White’s “salty language.”

“Some of the Republican folks that were somewhat surprised by my strong support for Royce and my nomination of Royce were concerned the Democrats were just going to go to town on his background issues,” Rosha said. “And I just explained, ‘This is politics; you could endorse Mother Teresa, and people are going to dig stuff up on her.’”

He added: “It should certainly be more interesting than the typical central casting Republican candidate.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com