The national debate about removing Confederate statues has intensified since this past weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, and Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rays, and Lightning are all providing funds to help remove one that stands outside Tampa’s Hillsborough County Courthouse. The statue in question, Memoria In Aeterna, was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910 (45 years after the end of the Civil War) and unveiled in 1911. It depicts one Confederate soldier marching to war and another returning, and it’s raised some recent controversy, but Hillsborough County commissioners voted 4-3 Wednesday to prevent solely public funds from being used for its removal. They did say that it could be moved if $140,000 (an estimated half of the cost) was raised privately within 30 days, though, and that inspired Dungy to not only say he’d contribute $5,000, but also challenge Tampa’s pro sports teams to help:
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
And they did, releasing a joint statement Thursday:
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) August 17, 2017
And they’re not the only ones. Bob Gries, the former owner of the AFL’s Tampa Bay Storm, told the Tampa Bay Times he’d chip in $50,000, and Tampa Bay mayor Bob Buckhorn added $1,000. Overall, the GoFundMe page Tampa lawyer Tom Scarritt set up 29 days ago had received over $52,000 by Thursday afternoon, with that amount rising dramatically from the $7,000 contributed by Wednesday morning, and that doesn’t count many private donations.
Here’s some history on the monument, from the Times‘ piece on the vote:
Tampa’s Confederate monument, called Memoria In Aeterna, was built in 1911 with funds raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Its dedication drew 5,000 people when Tampa was still a small port city. School was canceled so children could attend.
The monument’s design — a north facing Confederate soldier heading to war, another walking south toward home in a tattered uniform and a marble obelisk between them — was celebrated as a fitting tribute to the men who fought for the Southern cause.
But during that event, the keynote speaker, State Attorney Herbert Phillips, called black Americans “an ignorant and inferior race.” He said those who help them get jobs in the federal government were “an enemy of good government and a traitor to the Anglo-Saxon race.”
Commissioner Les Miller, one of the three dissenting votes, the county’s only black commissioner and a leader of the removal efforts, said Wednesday the monument’s continued presence on county property is “a slap in the face” and “shows that we haven’t come that far.” But now, it looks like it is in fact going to be moved. ESPN writes that overall enough money appears to have been raised to meet the goal and move the statue to a small family cemetery in nearby Brandon. And Dungy and the Tampa teams played a major role in that.