The Carolina Panthers have been as outspoken as any sports franchise about the Black Lives Matter movement since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.
Multiple players made appearances at protests while the team took to social media to voice its support. The team also dropped its long-time sponsorship deal with CPI security; after comments made by CEO Ken Gill in an email.
On Wednesday the team announced a decision to move a statue of former owner Jerry Richardson that resides outside of stadium gates; in an effort to increase public safety according to the club.
Richardson is a controversial figure in the Queen City. On the one hand he has status as the team’s first owner; and have him to thank in part for two Super Bowl runs and the privilege of prime Cam Newton. But he was driven from the team and the NFL in 2018; after allegations of racial and sexual harassment rose against him.
“We were aware of the most recent conversation surrounding the Richardson statue and are concerned there may be attempts to take it down,” said a team spokesperson. “We are moving the statue in the interest of public safety.”
The team has not revealed what they intend as the final fate of the 13-foot statue erected in 2016. Richardson himself hasn’t commented on the situation, but his spokesman Jim Gray did make a statement.
“Mr. Richardson has made no public comments about the Panthers or the NFL since the sale of the team and doesn’t plan to do so now as a private citizen. He has worked to treat all people fairly in his business and personal lives and, like many other Americans, is troubled by recent events in Minneapolis, Charlotte, and around the country.”
On December 15, 2017, the Panthers opened an investigation into the past conduct of 81-year-old owner Jerry Richardson.
An open letter from one of his past victims accused him of making multiple sexual advances on her over the course of a few years.
“I didn’t know what to do when you called me to your stadium suite in the middle of the week so you could take off my shoes, place my legs in your lap and rub their entire length, from toes to crotch,” she wrote.
“I didn’t know what to do when you asked me to turn around so you could see how my jeans looked. I didn’t know what to do when you brushed my breasts to put my seat belt around me in the front seat of your car. I didn’t know what to do when you put your hands on my mouth, for me to kiss them. I didn’t know what to do. So, I did what you told me to do.”
The after an independent investigation by U.S. attorney Mary Jo White; the league fined Richardson $2.75 million on June 28, 2018. On July 9 the team sale was finalized; with hedge fund mogul David Tepper purchasing the club for $2.275 billion.
“For me, the Carolina Panthers, we hold ourselves to a standard,” said safety Tre Boston, who has played under both regimes. “We hold ourselves with pride. We do the right things.”
Boston did not say whether Tepper talked to players before making the decision to move the statue; but says he does feel something with Tepper he never felt with Richardson: like a friend.