The Tampa Bay area's three major professional sports franchises announced Thursday that they would help fund moving a Confederate memorial statue out of downtown Tampa.
In a joint statement issued via social media, the teams said they have "dedicated funds" to assist in moving the statue from the public space in front of the old Hillsborough County courthouse.
"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 read, in part.
A joint statement from the Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays: pic.twitter.com/A825Lj0a1M
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) August 17, 2017
The drive to move the statue comes amid heated rhetoric — from both defenders of such statues and those who seek to remove them from civic spaces — following violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., when white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters, purportedly over the city's statue of Robert E. Lee. One counter-protester was killed and two state troopers lost their lives in a helicopter crash as they monitored the clashes.
The Tampa-area teams' announcement came only hours after former Buccaneers coach and Tampa resident Tony Dungy challenged the franchises to help fund relocating the statue, while saying he and his wife were contributing $5,000 to the cause.
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
Dungy later tweeted a link to the GoFundMe.com campaign that has a goal of raising the $140,000 in 30 days that the county said it would need from private sources to move the statue. The campaign had raised nearly $50,000 as of mid-afternoon Thursday.