Posted on December 18, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The 2017 season will be Jerry Richardson’s last as owner of the Carolina Panthers. Richardson, 81, announced late Sunday night via a letter that he will be putting the team up for sale after the season. Richardson’s plans to sell the team come after a Sports Illustrated report alleging inappropriate behavior by Richardson toward several former employees. The report also indicated that Richardson made racially insensitive comments to a scout who is no longer with the team.
On Friday, the Panthers announced that they would conduct an investigation into the allegations against Richardson. However, the NFL announced on Sunday that it would be taking over the investigation. Richardson’s decision to sell the team may be his way of avoiding such an investigation. According to the report, Richardson and the team reached settlements with former employees who had made complaints against Richardson.
“I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership,” Richardson said in his letter. “Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of this NFL season. We will not begin the sale process, nor will we entertain any inquiries, until the very last game is played.”
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Richardson has owned the Panthers since they first became a franchise in 1993. He previously devised a plan to have the team sold within two years of his death, so he clearly wasn’t planning on giving up his ownership while still alive. Despite his sudden plans to sell, Richardson reiterated in his letter his desire to see Carolina win a Super Bowl.
“I hope everyone in this organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on just one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl,” wrote Richardson in his letter. “While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers’ Number One fan.”
There has been immediate reaction to Richardson’s decision to sell throughout the NFL. Not surprisingly, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was outspoken in his support for Richardson, lamenting the Carolina owner’s decision to sell the team.
“I’m very sad,” Jones said late Sunday. “Jerry is one of the really, really, really outstanding men of football that I’ve ever met, and I really admire him. I know that he made it the old-fashioned way. He worked for it. He took what he made in a short time in pro football and turned it into a great business and then used that to get the Carolina franchise. So he’s a great story.”
With the news that the Panthers will soon be on the market, prospective buyers have already let their interest in buying the team known. Sean “Diddy” Combs expressed his desire to buy the team via Twitter. Combs cited the fact that there are no African American owners in the NFL as part of his motivation. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, a Charlotte native, quickly expressed interest n joining Combs.
Bruton Smith has previously expressed interest in owning the Panthers. Smith owns Speedway Motorsports Inc., the owner and operator of several NASCAR racetracks, including Charlotte Motor Speedway. In September, Forbes placed the value of the Panthers at $2.3 billion. It remains to be seen if Richardson’s apparent urgency in selling the team will have an impact on the selling price.
With the sale of the Panthers seemingly inevitable, the team is currently in the middle of a heated playoff race in the NFC. Carolina is currently 10-4 and tied with New Orleans atop the NFC South. The Panthers are just two years removed from playing in the Super Bowl. They appear to be contenders to get back there in what will be Richardson’s final season as team owner.