Tampa mayor, community react to Ybor City stabbing

will businesses be affected?

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -When Richard Gonzmart heard U.S.F.’s head football coach, Willie Taggart, say Ybor City was off limits to his team, all he could do is scratch his head.  He’s President and CEO of Columbia Restaurants.  His family has been in the business for more than a century in Ybor City.  “You know, we’ve all said things that we wish we could take back.”  Said Gonzmart.  “And I think what he meant was that the bars in Ybor City were off base and that could’ve been Carrollwood, it could’ve been International Plaza.  Any bars is what I think he meant.”

Taggart made the comments during a conference call when reporters asked him about the stabbing death of one of his former players Elkino Watson.  Watson was killed, another former player was injured after a fight outside of an Ybor City nightclub early Sunday morning.  “Tampa is a great city with a lot of great places to go and be around and have fun.”  Taggart told reporters.  “So our guys are going to find other places to have fun.  Ybor will not be one of them.”

Gonzmart fired off an e-mail to U.S.F.’s athletic director asking for an explanation.  “My concern, just wanting to understand.” Said Gonzmart.  “I was on a flight from Germany when I read it online.”

U.S.F. Athletic director, Mark Harlan, issued the following statement:

“I would like to make clear USF Athletics high regard for Ybor City and its cherished and historical place in our Bay Area community and culture. Earlier today, our football coach spoke out of emotion and in reaction to the tragic loss of Elkino Watson, a member of our football program from 2011-2014. USF Athletics will continue to focus on reinforcing its policy of student-athletes making smart decisions where ever they may be, looking out for one another, and walking away from any situation that appears threatening. They will not be banned from visiting any areas of our beautiful city.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is also concerned with the comments.  He briefly addressed the situation at the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.  “I don’t want to have to pick up the paper and read about this weekend.”  Buckhorn told the crowd.  “We deserve better and you deserve better.  Those of you who have been investing, and we have got to change the dynamic just as we have the past couple of years.”

After the luncheon, Newschannel Eight asked Mayor Buckhorn his feelings on the coach’s comments.  “You can understand why he said that.”  Said Buckhorn.  “He’s sort of the parent in absentia for those athletes.  So he wants them to be safe.  I don’t think it reflected on what USF thinks about it.  I think it was a quick reaction to a very tragic circumstance.”

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