The Hall of Famer tells PEOPLE Florida was "not a place right now that my family and I feel protected, feel safe, feel seen"
Following his retirement from the NBA, the former Miami Heat star, 41, and his wife Gabrielle Union relocated their family from Florida to California. The decision was a personal one for the couple, and Wade tells PEOPLE the move "wasn't because we love the Sunshine State any less."
Wade explains, "When we had to decide what the next step was for our family as we were all coming together a little bit more, we had to think about our family and how it looked and how we wanted our kids to feel, what we want them to see on a daily basis."
Ultimately, Wade says, "Florida just wasn't it for us at that time anymore."
The father of three says the Sunshine State "has been so amazing for our family" in many ways, "but going forward, raising our family, it just wasn't the ideal place."
California was the "ideal place" for the Wade family, he says, "because of everything that it represents and the community that's represented out here."
Wade adds that "the community that my daughter is a part of" is "represented in a way that we felt comfortable" in California. Wade's daughter, 15-year-old Zaya, came out as transgender in 2020.
In addition to the Miami Heat, Florida is home to the NBA's Orlando Magic. On May 12, the Magic organization donated $50,000 to a committee supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's presidential campaign.
The NBA Players Association took issue with the donation, calling the decision "alarming given recent comments and policies of its beneficiary" in a statement issued to PEOPLE.
Wade says it's "unfortunate" that the state he "loves so much" has become a place he and his family don't "feel protected" in right now. "There's been a lot that's come out of Florida, I don't know, there's been a lot that I've heard," Wade says of the Magic's donation.
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Wade says he "didn't need validation at all" in the decision to leave Florida amid the NBA team's support for DeSantis, but adds, "It's just not a place right now that my family and I feel protected, feel safe, feel seen, and I'm thankful that I'm able to speak out on it because I know there's other families that feel the same way."
Moving forward, the retired NBA star says, "So, we have to continue to keep doing what we can so we could see some change happening in a place that I call home before."
Among the ways he hopes to inspire change, Wade has considered direct involvement with Florida politics.
Three months after reports surfaced that Florida Democrats were eyeing Wade and former NBA player Grant Hil as possible candidates for a U.S. Senate run in 2024, the former Miami Heat point guard shared his reaction to the news.
When asked by The New York Times about the reports — which circled in May after an NBC News story reported that both of the former basketball players had been named by Democratic donor groups — Wade said he “heard” about the discussions.
He then confirmed that he has been approached about running for political office — but laughed off any questioning about whether he would actually consider launching a campaign.
“I mean, it’s just conversation,” Wade said. “‘Hey, you would be good for,’ ‘Hey, we can see you in,’ ‘We would love to have you in.’ ”
He continued, “It’s things that I’m passionate about that I will speak out on and speak up for. And so I don’t play the politician games. I don’t know a lot about it.”
Wade shares two children with ex-wife Siovaughn Funches; Zaire, 21, and Zaya, 16, as well as a son, Xavier, 9, with Aja Metoyer. In 2018, Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, welcomed a daughter, Kaavia James, 4. Wade is also the legal guardian of his nephew, Dahveon Morris, 21.
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