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Disgruntled Tampa Bay Lightning fans #BoycottBradenton on social media

A photo tweeted by the Pittsburgh Penguins shows a "Let's Go Pens" towel sponsored by the Bradenton visitors' bureau. Photo from Twitter.
Published May 14, 2016

While the Tampa Bay Lightning was fighting to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night, fans on Twitter were having a battle of their own.

Some fans were not pleased when they saw the Pittsburgh team tweet out a photo thanking @VisitBradenton for rally towels during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.

The visitor bureau for Bradenton, an area close to Tampa Bay, promoted the fact that it provided the yellow towels that read "Let's go Pens!" with the words "Bradenton, Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key" along the bottom.

Bolts fans revolted via social media, creating the hashtag #BoycottBradenton. It trended as a main topic on Twitter Friday night.

Bradenton is no longer part of the Tampa Bay area or #TeamTampaBay. #BoycottBradenton #MakeItTrend pic.twitter.com/0eepR25yNx

Some took to their keyboards to let Bradenton know it would be just fine if they seceded from the area.

The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau released a statement Friday night in response to the social media uproar.

Bradenton is the spring training destination for the Pittsburgh Pirates and has "multiple marketing campaigns with multiple Pittsburgh sporting teams" to help with economic development in the region, it said.

"As a destination, we have and will continue to support the Tampa Bay Lightning through our annual marketing initiatives and wish both teams the best of luck in the Eastern Conference Finals," the group's executive director Elliott Falcione said in the release.

But to some fans, the damage is done. They called it a reason to "never visit Bradenton."

When you get a few tourists from Pittsburgh but now everyone within an hour of your city hates you #BoycottBradenton pic.twitter.com/CsikaH3JDX

The Bolts did beat the Pens 3-1 Friday. As of Saturday morning, the Lightning's official Twitter account had no mention of the boycott, just pride in the win.

Saturday afternoon, the Lightning released a statement:

"We understand that our region and our state have been built on the tourism industry and we acknowledge Bradenton's great long term relationship with the city of Pittsburgh and its people. We are all in the business of selling the state's assets — our beaches, the water, sunshine, great weather — as we continue working to grow and develop our regional economy.

"Hopefully hockey fans throughout the region, including our friends in Bradenton, can enjoy a competitive, spirited Eastern Conference Final between the Lightning and the Penguins."

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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