In the wake of riots in Charlottesville, pressure has grown around the country to move or remove symbols of the Confederacy from their longstanding pedestals. Hillsborough County, Florida had reached an agreement last month to move Memoria in Aeterna, a statue commemorating the Confederacy, from its current location in downtown Tampa to a family cemetery in Brandon, Florida. But county commissioners announced on Wednesday that without $140,000 in outside funding, the statue would stay where it is.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy took the commissioners at their word, pledging $5,000 to the statue removal and challenging other Tampa-area teams to step up:
Our County says private $$ must be raised to move Confederate statue. Lauren and I are in for $5K. We challenge Bucs Rays Lightning to help! pic.twitter.com/dGRd1BTFkp
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) August 17, 2017
As of 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, the private donation effort had amassed nearly $50,000; it had stood at $7,000 24 hours before. Many local politicians pledged funds to the effort, but Dungy was the first local sports figure to go public with a donation. Shortly after Dungy’s tweet, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Bob Gries, the former owner of the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team, would be donating $50,000 to the effort.
Soon afterward, the Tampa Bay Rays, Lightning, and Buccaneers issued a joint statement:
BREAKING: Combined statement from Bucs, Rays and Lightning on pitching in to remove Confederate monument from downtown Tampa. pic.twitter.com/0dMNHy6DCI
— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) August 17, 2017
Memoria in Aeterna was dedicated in 1911, nearly 50 years after the end of the Civil War, and features an inscription which reads in part, “To the honor and courage of the patriots of the Confederate States of America.” The statue features two Confederate soldiers, one marching northward with a determined bearing, the other facing southward, walking downcast in apparent defeat.
Dungy coached in Tampa from 1996 to 2001, and later won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts. He’s a 2016 inductee of the NFL Hall of Fame. Surely, there are those who wish Dungy—and the media covering him—would “stick to sports.” But clearly, there are many others who are glad he’s not.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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