TAMPA — It hadn't occurred to the leaders of Tampa Pride that they could put the name of their hallmark event up for sale.
Then they saw it done across the bay: The Tech Data St. Pete Pride Parade marches on Saturday.
Tampa Pride organizers said they might be open to branding the Tampa Pride Diversity Parade, but not by changing its name.
"It felt like a sellout," said Tampa Pride President and local LGBTQ activist Carrie West of St. Petersburg's title sponsorship. "That's what people are telling me."
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: It's now the Tech Data St. Pete Pride Parade and some people aren't happy
It's the first year St. Petersburg's Pride celebration, commemorating the 1969 uprising against police brutality toward members of the LGBTQ community at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, will march under a title sponsor. The pairing irked some on social media. Would Tech Data Martin Luther King Day be tolerated, one Facebook user pondered.
St. Pete Pride leaders said they need sponsorships in order to fund the largest Pride celebration in Florida. More than 200,000 people are expected to show up.
Tech Data, which touts its workplace inclusivity, is proud to have had a presence at the parade for years. The company plans to have two floats in this year's parade and march more than 1,000 people — including a host of executives.
Tampa's Ybor City parade draws 40,000-50,000 people and West agreed corporations must pick up part of the tab for events like Pride to go forward. And he agreed with St. Petersburg Council member Steve Kornell, who said it's encouraging companies are clamoring to be affiliated with Pride.
"It's just the way it's presented," West said.
West said the name change in St. Petersburg has prompted people to ask: "Is Tampa going to be a sellout, too?" Tampa Pride board members at a recent meeting left open the possibility of branding their future parades, but, West assured, "Definitely we would no do what St. Pete did."
"It'd be the Tampa Pride Diversity Parade, and presenting sponsor for the parade," he said. "But to do a name change like (St. Petersburg), that's pretty hefty."
Contact Josh Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4613. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.