“Now more than ever before, we must stand united and committed to diversity and inclusion as we all attempt to heal from the tragedy in Charlottesville,” the teams’ statement said.
The teams, apparently, responded to a post on Twitter made Thursday morning by the former Buccaneers Coach Tony Dungy, who said he would donate $5,000 but also challenged the Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays to offer their financial support. Dungy posted a link to a GoFundMe site for anyone wishing to donate to what the page called the “Tampa Statue Relocation Fund.”
Contributions were also made by prominent residents like Mike Griffin, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce chairman, who pledged a $70,000 donation from the chamber; the former Tampa Bay Storm owner Bob Gries, who donated $50,000, according to The Tampa Bay Times; and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who posted a photograph of his $1,000 check to Twitter.
As of 3:45 p.m. Thursday, the GoFundMe page said it had raised $52,145 but had stopped collecting donations because the fund-raising goal had been reached.
It appeared that in total more than $140,000 had been raised but it was unclear what would be done with any surplus money.
The monument in Tampa, called Memoria in Aeterna, was built in 1911 with money raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and was moved some decades later to the public space in front of the courthouse. The monument features an inscription that reads, in part, “To the honor and courage of the patriots of the Confederate States of America.”
A push to remove the monument was defeated in June — as a compromise, a mural was to be painted to reflect the city’s diversity — but public outcry, spearheaded by elected officials and community leaders, prompted them to reconsider.
The Rays were the first team to champion relocating the memorial, telling The Tampa Bay Times in July that they have “long supported and are committed to diversity and inclusion.” Responding to an inquiry from the newspaper, the Lightning declined to take a stance, while the Buccaneers’ offices were closed, and a spokesperson was not available, the Times said.
Dungy coached the Buccaneers from 1996 to 2001, and though he went on to win a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, he still lives in the Tampa area and remains active in the community.