Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown was appalled by the violent images he saw from Charlottesville, Va., where neo-Nazis and white supremacists recently sought to march to ostensibly protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.“It was hard to watch,” Brown told The Tampa Bay Times.
And he was annoyed that the city where he plies his trade also has a Confederate memorial, one he hopes his recently-born daughter will never have to see as she grows older.
So Brown reached into his pockets and donated $1,500 as part of an effort to privately raise the $140,000 that county officials said would be required to remove the Confederate monument from Tampa’s downtown courthouse. The $140,000 goal was achieved in one day.
The deadly clash in Charlottesville “could have been in Tampa, could be anywhere in the country where the statues are,” Brown told The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.
“I was just thinking to myself, how was I going to explain to my daughter if she was old enough, how would I explain why someone doesn’t like her? Or why is this going on in the world today?” Brown told the Times. “For me that kind of re-motivated me to make sure I’m doing everything I can to make sure the community is a better place for her and everyone.”
Brown’s team had his back. So did the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. The teams responded to a call from former Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy to give so the Confederate statue could be moved.
Tampa’s major league sports teams issued a joint statement last Thursday that said “Now more than ever we must stand united and committed to diversity and inclusion as we all attempt to heal from the tragedy in Charlottesville.”
Brown told Smith that donating to the cause was a no-brainer because “I don’t think Confederacy is something that should be downtown in front of the courthouse.”
“You talk about dividing a community, that’s a very big symbol right there in the middle of the city,” said Brown, a Minnesota resident who had 3 goals and 3 assists in 64 regular season games for the Lightning last season.
Brown is among a small, but growing, group of professional athletes who aren’t afraid to weigh in on politically-sensitive issues.
He criticized Columbus Blue Jackets Head Coach Mike Tortorella last September when, as coach of the U.S. team in the World Cup of Hockey tournament, said he’s bench any player who conducted a protest during the playing of the national anthem as former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did last season to protest the treatment of minorities in the United States.
“Wouldn’t benching a black man for taking a stance only further prove Kap’s point of oppression? But hey,” Brown wrote in a tweet that went viral.
Brown and the Lightning weren’t the only ones in the hockey world to respond to the events in Charlottesville. The Detroit Red Wings, dismayed and disgusted that some white nationalists were using the team’s iconic and trademarked winged wheel logo on shields, posters, and other items, threatened legal action.
“The Detroit Red Wings vehemently disagree with and are not associated in any way with the event taking place today in Charlottesville, Va.,” the team said in a statement “The Red Wings believe that hockey is for everyone, and we celebrate the great diversity of our fan base and our nation. We are exploring every possible legal action as it pertains to the misuse of our logo in this disturbing demonstration.”
The NHL expressed its displeasure, saying in a statement that “We are obviously outraged by the irresponsible and improper use of our intellectual property as seen this weekend in Charlottesville, Va.”
“This specific use is directly contrary to the value of inclusiveness that our league prioritizes and champions,” the statement added. “We will take immediate and all necessary steps to insure the use is discontinued as promptly as possible and will vigorously pursue other remedies as appropriate.”
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