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Could #BoycottBradenton Actually have Helped the Rays?

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If you live in Tampa Bay, by now you have heard about the the firestorm that was caused by the Bradenton Visitors Bureau when they purchased advertising with the Pittsburgh Penguins that placed their logo on  “terrible towels” for game one of the Stanley Cup Conference Championships.  The act itself wouldn’t have been intrinsically bad except for one small detail; the Penguins were playing the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Last Friday, lightning struck Bradenton.

The City of Bradenton has been a hub of interest for Pittsburgh fans since 1969 when the cities MLB franchise, the Pirates, began using it as their spring training home.  Every spring the city turns black/yellow and bares the name Pirate City so when the Pittsburgh Penguins reached out to Executive Director Elliott Falcione about buying ad space on a terrible towel, it seemed like a no brainer right? Wrong.  

In an interview with local morning radio host Mike Calta of the Mike Calta Show on 102.5 The Bone, Falcione stated that the decision to buy the advertising was an “impulse” and at the time he “did not think that the Penguins would be playing the Lightning” and cause a conflict of interest.  He also said that “it’s something they wouldn’t do again” and “that they respect the passion” of Lightning fans.

To me, it was an honest mistake made by someone just trying to promote a local economy and it blew up in their face.  The explanation of the decision and the apology that was issued by the Bradenton Visitors Bureau would have been enough for me to forgive them, but not so much for a large percentage of Lightning fans.  I’m not going to talk to you about that, I want to tell you the rest of the story.

I am a sports fan.  I like every sport, but my passion is baseball and my heart is with the Tampa Bay Rays.  I have followed them and all the drama that has surrounded for many years.  l try to keep up on all things Rays and fancy myself an educated fan.  

When I first saw a few of my favorite follows on Twitter tweeting #BoycottBradenton I was instantly intrigued and had to get details.  I have been to Bradenton’s McKechnie Field multiple times for spring training games and knew of their support of the Pirates.  It wasn’t a shock to me to find out they advertised with the Penguins, although I will admit their timing was a little off.  

What I saw happen next was what really peaked my interest.  

Being a resident of Tampa and being a huge proponent of the area being awesome, I follow Visit St Pete/Clearwater on Twitter.  @VSPC is a great follow for local events, businesses, and awesome pictures of the area that make me feel lucky to live here.  I will not be so brash as to say that they never made mention the Rays on their Twitter account, but they aren’t mentioned often and that all changed on Sunday May 15.  Amidst the firestorm of hate being lashed out at Bradenton, Visit St Pete/Clearwater started showing the Rays a lot of love.  During the game against the Oakland Athletics (that sadly the Rays lost) they tweeted out one picture and two videos of the game in support of the Rays.  The following day, the Rays bolstered a 13-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays (which it should be noted that they spring train in Dunedin, FL in Pinellas County) Visit St Pete/Clearwater shared a tweet posted by the Rays congratulating them on a “killer win”.  

Is this new found interest in the Rays calculated or coincidental? Did the hate they saw unleashed upon Bradenton make them think about how residents will feel if the Rays were to leave and it didn’t look like Visit St Pete/Clearwater was in their corner?  Or have they supported the Rays all along and just never tweeted about it? These are all questions that have yet to be answered, but I know that regardless of the reasoning I’m happy they are doing it.  @VSPC has 54.6K followers and their tweets can only help fill Tropicana Field and that is good for everyone.  

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