Professional sports franchises in Tampa, Florida, announced Thursday that they are joining together to provide the funds necessary to remove a Confederate statue from the city's downtown area.
The Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL), Rays (MLB) and Buccaneers (NFL) said in a statement that they will work with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce to remove the statue, which is currently in front of a courthouse. The statue is a monument to all Confederate soldiers.
The statement asserted that the Confederate monument is not reflective of Tampa values and that the franchises must stand for diversity and inclusion in the aftermath of the violent Charlottesville, Virginia, protests.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy personally pledged $5,000 to the removal fund earlier Thursday. Last month, the county commissioners voted to approve the relocation of the statue to a local cemetery, as long as no public money was used in the effort, according to WTVT-TV in Tampa. This week, they placed a one-month deadline on the removal.
County Commissioner Les Miller viewed the deadline as a measure meant to derail the relocation of the statue. Miller was one of the primary advocates for removal of the statue from the courthouse. At the time, he didn't believe the community would be able to raise the funds in time.
"By the motion that was made today and passed, the monument will stay where it is," Miller told WTVT earlier this week before the recent pledges. "Hillsborough County, the progressive county we are, will let a Confederate monument stay while everyone else is taking theirs down. I will be highly surprised if we are able to raise those dollars in 30 days. I don't think we will. I think that monument will stay."
After the initial approval, private fundraising efforts produced about half of the $280,000 needed to remove the statue, but efforts had stalled in recent weeks. It appears the recent pledges will provide for the remaining needed funds.
Confederate monuments have been a source of conflict recently. The "Unite the Right" protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, was originally a protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Statues in other cities around the country have been removed, sometimes by cities and in some instances by protesters.