What started as an inside joke and one of life’s great teaching lessons — a small neighborhood lemonade stand created by a father and his son — has suddenly created a nightmare for an entire Florida family. By no means was it designed to bring so much attention to the Sunday afternoon venture, but it went insanely viral and brought out the worst on social media and beyond.
If you know anything about the Florida State Seminoles football program, you understand things aren’t exactly in great shape right now. Losses to Boise State and Virginia to start the college football season have fans in Tallahassee restless. Squeaking out an overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe because their kicker missed an extra point isn’t exactly promising, either.
This beginning, which also included a player in garnet and gold line up backwards for a play, would have been embarrassing under Bobby Bowden or Jimbo Fisher. That’s why so many are upset with FSU head coach Willie Taggart and the direction of the ACC program after a 1-2 start in 2019.
So after Saturday night’s game, Daniel Grant and four-year-old Grayton Grant took matters into their own hands early Sunday by selling lemonade to raise money, with a sign saying the proceeds would go toward paying Taggart’s $17 million contract buyout.
All of that sounds pretty harmless, right? Well, that was definitely the point.
We all have friends we talk about sports with, especially to complain about the bad things that are happening during a game. We bond that way, and unfortunately for ‘Noles fans, there’s definitely more grumbling than celebrating right now.
And now, Daniel Grant wants to clear the air and put this entire thing in the rearview mirror.
“The whole purpose of the lemonade stand, first and foremost, was for a teaching moment about complaining and not acting on those complaints for my son,” Daniel Grant told FanBuzz. “It then just kind of turned out to be a tongue-in-cheek joke, and a tongue-in-cheek joke that obviously a lot of people didn’t get.
“This was by no means trying to start a campaign to buy out Willie Taggart. That’s not what this is. I hope, more than anybody, that a guy like Willie Taggart turns this program around.”
How Much Money Did the FSU Lemonade Stand Make?
The adorable and timeless business venture during 90-degree weather raised $241 in less than three hours, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Grayton, who set up the stand along with a “Free Willie” sign outside his grandmother’s Tallahassee home, charged people $20 per cup. One person even donated $100.
Daniel Grant, Grayton’s father, matched the money and sent a check for $482 to Seminole Boosters, Inc. Daniel Grant is an FSU graduate and a platinum chief, which is second-highest of FSU’s booster ranks and requires an annual giving amount of $13,000 to $24,999.
Enclosed with the check was a typed letter from Grayton that read:
“I am tired of losing football games and being made fun of at school for being a Seminole fan. At four, I am already starting to gravitate towards the color orange. You don’t want that for an innocent kid like me…Advertisement
“I hope this helps other Noles fans (sic) have hope that we can once again have a football team and program to be proud of!”
Obviously, the orange Grayton refers to the colors of FSU’s main rival, the Florida Gators. Grayton’s signature in orange marker capped off the letter to let Florida State’s booster club know he wasn’t messing around.
The letter, according to Daniel Grant, was sent directly to a friend at the booster club. And let’s not pretend like this was solely the idea of a 4-year-old kid, either.
This was an inside joke between friends, never intended to hurt anybody, but, man, there’s been some problems in the aftermath.
FSU Lemonade Stand Backlash
Daniel Grant loves a good joke. He also loves his family and is a die-hard Florida State athletics fan. Grant and his wife have three kids, including four-year-old Grayton, and another is on the way. They go to as many FSU sporting events as possible. However, there is a vocal group that completely disagreed with what he did with the lemonade stand.
Grant said there have been some “pretty vicious, negative attacks” and “personal attacks” since the story went viral. Anything from attributing the lemonade stand to their political beliefs, calling them bad names as parents, and making fun of his son’s name, including how they spell it, have all popped up.
Someone even suggested calling the Department of Children and Welfare Services, while others have deemed the act racist in nature. The social media posts have been pretty ruthless.
“It’s been a pretty tough 24 hours and we’ve decided to just go in a different direction,“ Daniel Grant told FanBuzz. “[We used] the money that was raised in a light-hearted way to try to generate more support for the team.
Grant and his family purchased extra tickets for Florida State’s game against the Louisville Cardinals at Doak Campbell Stadium and donated them to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend.
“Hopefully some good will come out of it,” Grant added. “We can start the next generation of Seminole fans that hopefully become students, alumni, boosters, and be passionate and as giving back to Florida State as we are.”
The Big Takeaway
The Seminoles handed Taggart a six-year, $30 million contract in 2017 despite the head coach ever accomplishing much at a Power 5 school. He spent three years at Western Kentucky, where 7-5 was his best season. Over four years at the University of South Florida, he peaked at 10-2 in 2016. At Oregon in 2017, he went 7-5.
Taggart just hasn’t got the job done as a head coach in NCAA college football. In 10 seasons including this one, he owns a 53-59 (.473) record and is 6-9 at FSU. That’s a stark contrast to what Florida State fans are accustomed to.
Jimbo Fisher won 83 games in eight years, winning one national championship with Heisman Trophy winner and first-overall NFL Draft pick Jameis Winston. Before Fisher, Bobby Bowden roamed the sidelines of Doak Campbell Stadium for 34 years and compiled a 304-97-4 record and won two national championships in 1993 and 1999.
Now, though, it appears the Florida State football program is lagging behind other in-state schools on the gridiron like Florida, UCF and Miami. Taggart’s contract requires the school to pay 80 percent of his remaining salary if he were fired, which comes out to $17 million.
Fans would do whatever it took to bring the Florida State Seminoles back to perennial College Football Playoff contenders like Alabama and Clemson. Some of it definitely includes the idea to pay Seminoles coach Willie Taggart’s buyout.
At the end of the day, Daniel Grant wants FSU to succeed and is rooting for Taggart to succeed. He will be at the game every Saturday. Win or lose, he will be at the next one, too.
This attention is just not what anyone had in mind, and it taught everyone a simple lesson because of it.
“I just wish people would lighten up a little bit. That’s what I wish,” Grant said. “Anybody that knows me, I poke more fun at myself than anybody else. Not everything has to be so serious and not everything has to be so vicious. We learned a great lesson by this that some people can take a joke that we think is funny and find it offensive. That’s life. It happens all of the time.
“Unfortunately in today’s society with social media, it gets pretty crazy one way or the other.”
Who would have thought a four-year-old FSU fan’s lemonade stand would cause so much grief and headache?