Panthers' new owner: I'm obligated to keep statue of Jerry Richardson

On Monday, Jerry Richardson’s tenure as owner of the Carolina Panthers came to an end, with a pitiful thank you note to fans that made no mention of the reason he was essentially forced to sell the franchise he founded.

To date, Richardson has never given so much as a flimsy apology for his repeated sexual harassment of several female employees as well as using a racial slur against a black scout, all of which led to several monetary settlements and non-disclosure agreements. Just days after a Sports Illustrated report in December outlined at least some of the allegations against Richardson, he announced he was putting the team up for sale. An NFL investigation led to Richardson being fined $2.75 million, which the league said would be donated to organizations supporting abuse survivors and women of color.

The man who bought the team is David Tepper, and on Tuesday, he held a news conference, stressing as he did in May when he was announced as the winning bidder that the franchise would be headed in a more positive direction.

However, when it comes to one question many have asked, Tepper had a surprising answer.

‘Contractually obligated’

On the occasion of Richardson’s 80th birthday in 2016, there was a massive statue of him unveiled outside Bank of America Stadium. It’s almost 13 feet tall, on top of a four-foot pedestal, and features Richardson holding a football in front of him and flanked by two snarling Panthers. It’s…interesting.

(Photo via Getty Images)

Anyway, since the ugly news of Richardson’s dirty deeds, many have wondered what will happen to the statue.

Unfortunately, it’s not going anywhere.

Via tweets posted by several reporters at Tepper’s news conference, when asked about the statue he said, “I’m contractually obligated to leave that statue where it is,” which to us sounds like he might take it down if he could.

It also sounds like Richardson’s ego is still well intact.

‘That was then, this is now’

Tepper continued to emphasize that it’s a new day with him as owner, saying he would be accountable in the “new place,” meaning the Panthers.

“There aren’t going to be non-disclosure agreements in this new place,” he said. “That was then, this is now.”

(In announcing its findings in the investigation into allegations against Richardson, the NFL-appointed investigator, Mary Jo White, suggested that the league prohibit the use of non-disclosure agreements “to limit reporting of potential violations or cooperation in league investigations under the Personal Conduct Policy.

Tepper said he’d “like to have an open environment…where everybody feels safe like a family,” and that there would be “no impediment” to employees reporting potential workplace violations up the ladder on the business side of the franchise.

As to players, Tepper spoke glowingly of the men the Panthers have on the roster and how involved they are in the community. He cited Spider-Man by saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

He also said he’s committed to social justice and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, repeating the line, “with liberty and justice for all” multiple times to underscore his stance.

Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson
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Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson walks on the field before Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
(L-R) Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, retiring commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson pose after Goodell was named the league's new chief executive in Northbrook, Illinois, August 8, 2006. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers, makes a statement after negotiations collapsed between the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) in Washington March 11, 2011. The last real hope for a quick end to the dispute ended when the union representing the players (NFLPA) filed a court application to dissolve itself after failing to reach an agreement with league and owners over a range of issues. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)
Carolina Panthers team owner Jerry Richardson, right, arrives in the owner's box at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 prior to the team's game against the Green Bay Packers. Sports Illustrated reported Sunday that at least four former Carolina Panthers employees have received 'significant' monetary settlements as a result of inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by owner Jerry Richardson The conduct, Sports Illustrated reported, included 'sexually suggestive language and behavior, and on at least one occasion directing a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout.' (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 17: The Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson shakes hands with Corey Brown #10 of the Carolina Panthers before their game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on November 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Head coach Ron Rivera and owner Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers smile after defeating the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 in the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Retired American professional stock car racing driver Jeff Gordon talks with Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson prior to the NFC Championship Game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Team Owner Jerry Richardson (R) of the Carolina Panthers is interviewed by Terry Bradshaw after the NFC Championship Gameagainst the Arizona Cardinals at Bank Of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson talk prior to game time at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina on Sunday, October 21, 2012. The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Carolina Panthers, 19-14. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT via Getty Images)

New practice facility, stadium revamp likely coming

Tepper reiterated that it’s “logical” to keep the Panthers in Charlotte, but on Tuesday he said the team is “falling a little bit behind” other clubs in terms of facilities. He gave the impression that he’ll be moving the team’s practice facilities away from Bank of America Stadium, perhaps closer to the North Carolina-South Carolina border.

He also wants to see high school state championships played at the stadium, as well as more concerts and other events.

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