August 18, 2017
Lightning wing J.T. Brown was back in his Minneapolis offseason home over the weekend when he saw on TV the violent protests in Charlottesville over the removal of a Confederate statue.
"It was hard to watch," Brown told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday.
One of Brown's first thoughts was how difficult it would be eventually for him and his wife, Lexi, to explain to their eight-week-old daughter, Lily, of why such a tragic event happened. Brown, 27, is one of around 30 African American players in the NHL.
"That (protest) could have been in Tampa, could be anywhere in the country where the statues are," Brown said. "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? 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 decided to get involved, donating $1,500 to assist in removing a Confederate statue in Tampa. The required $140,000 in private donations were raised in one day, with the Lightning, Rays and Bucs, along with Tony Dungy and Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn, all donating.
"To be generated in 24 hours, that speaks to the community," Brown said. "To raise that much money in a short time, it is obvious to me that it should be removed. It's something a lot of people in the community aren't okay with."
Brown, entering his sixth season with the Lightning, said he's tried to actively help the community. He's mentored at-risk kids at Tampa-area schools during the season through the team's "Guide the Thunder" program. He's currently using Twitch video game streams to raise money for "Hockey is Everyone," on pace to reach $5,000 (which he'll match).
While Brown admits he's never went by the Confederate statue in Tampa, he feels strongly it shouldn't be there.
"I don't feel like it should be celebrated," Brown said. "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."
Is Brown worried a similar protest to Charlottesville could happen when and if the Tampa statue is moved to Brandon?
"You always hope it would be peaceful, but you can't guarantee that," Brown said.
Brown is just happy Lily is too young to know what's going on. At some point down the road, Brown knows he and Lexi will have to explain such events to her.
"I hope by that time,' Brown says, "We're in a better place."
COURTESY: Tampa Bay Times - Joe Smith