The biggest news on Labor Day in Tampa was the report that, in the wake of the tragic stabbing death of former USF student and football player Elkino Watson early Sunday morning outside an Ybor City nightclub, head coach Willie Taggart was banning his players from visiting the historic entertainment district.
The biggest story this morning is how Taggart’s boss, Athletic Director Mark Harlan, has overruled him.
In a statement, Harlan says that contrary to Taggart’s proclamation, USF players can party there or any other part of town.
“USF Athletics will continue to focus on reinforcing its policy of student-athletes making smart decisions wherever they may be, looking out for one another, and walking away from any situation that appears threatening,” Harlan wrote, in a statement published by The Tampa Tribune. “They will not be banned from visiting any areas of our beautiful city.’’
Although it’s a minor embarrassment to the head coach, undoubtedly he got his message across to the young men that he works with and cares about everyday. It’s up to them to as adults to decide what to do with their free time.
As reported by Joey Knight and and Caitlin Johnston in today’s Times, the Ybor Establishment, personified by Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart, put his foot down immediately after reading the report about Taggart’s statement, saying that such a ban on Ybor should not stand.
Time now for some historical background: The business merchants in Ybor have fought for years against the perception that the district is a dangerous area. It’s a perception that they’ve fought hard against. Sadly, for all of their hard work, an incident like the death of Elkino Watson will reverberate — just like the incidents at the late but not lamented Club Empire back in the fall of 2011 momentarily killed the progress happening in the district. Prior to that, there were incidents with a club called Fuel.
Like the rest of Tampa (until this year, at least) crime has been dropping year by year in the district. Yet while some businesses in Ybor thrive, others continue to struggle.
If this tragedy had happened in SoHo, Coach Taggart may not have made the remark he made.
In other news…
Here’s a profile on GOP 2016 U.S. Senate hopeful Ron DeSantis.
And though it’s a bit dated, Tampa Bay area U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor came out against the Iran nuclear deal right before the long holiday weekend (as did DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Sunday).