On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lightning, and Rays added their names to the list of private benefactors donating to remove a Confederate monument from the old county courthouse in downtown Tampa.
A joint statement from the Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays: pic.twitter.com/A825Lj0a1M— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) August 17, 2017
The monument — titled Memoria en Aeterna — has long been a source of controversy in the Tampa area. It depicts a Confederate soldier going to and returning from war, with an inscription that reads, “To the honor and courage of the patriots of the Confederate States of America.” After public pressure to remove the monument, Hillsborough County tried to compromise in June, suggesting a plan to paint a mural behind it with the slogan, “United we all stand.” Eventually, they decided to move it to a local cemetery. But after agreeing in July to relocate the 106-year-old statue, the County Commission voted 4–2 in favor of a resolution stating that half the price of the monument’s removal would have to be paid for by private donors. If private funding didn’t reach $140,000 — nearly half the $285,500 estimated to relocate the statue — it would stay put.
The new push to remove the monument came days after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, members of neo-Nazi organizations, and Confederate sympathizers protested the removal of a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee on horseback. At a counterprotest to the events, police say that James Alex Fields Jr. drove into a crowd, killing one person and injuring 19 more.
Before the Bucs, Rays, and Lightning joined in to have the Tampa statue removed, Bob Gries, former owner of the AFL’s Tampa Bay Storm, contributed $50,000, and former Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy gave $5,000 and challenged the local teams to donate. Combined with the money from Gries, Dungy, and other donors, the three franchises donated enough to meet the fundraising goal just one day after the campaign started. Organizers of the GoFundMe page set up to solicit donations thanked supporters and confirmed that the amount had been reached. While the county commissioners are yet to make a statement, one member of the body, Victor Crist, told the Tampa Bay Times that the statue would be moved.
Earlier this week, just across the bay in St. Petersburg, the city removed its own Confederate monument from the downtown waterfront. But not all of the area’s reminders of its Civil War past are being removed; a 50-by-30-foot Confederate flag flies above the highway leading into Tampa.
Les Miller, the county commissioner who supported removing the Tampa courthouse monument this week, was outspoken about the need to take down the flag in 2015.
“I thought we had moved beyond that,” Miller told the Tampa Bay Times. “I know what it meant then, and I know what it means now.”