Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who was ousted from his position following allegations of sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct in 2017 (he later sold the franchise for a record $2.3 billion), handed his ownership stake to David Tepper under one important condition—Richardson’s statue outside Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium would remain untouched. Tepper confirmed this was indeed the case, claiming during his introductory press conference that he was “contractually obligated” to keep the statue despite the Panthers otherwise disassociating themselves from Richardson.
However, something must have changed as workers arrived Wednesday to collect the statue, which had been on display since 2016, without any prior warning. Onlookers knew something was afoot when a flatbed truck arrived outside Bank of America Stadium, which has served as Carolina’s home field since 1996. The surrounding road will be closed off until 8 PM ET while the construction crew works to remove the 13-foot sculpture.
The Panthers have suggested the statue’s removal may only be a temporary measure, claiming the decision to take it down was made “in the interest of public safety.” Jim Gray, a spokesman for the Panthers’ former owner, didn’t have much to say on the matter, only acknowledging that Richardson, “like many other Americans, is troubled by recent events in Minneapolis, Charlotte, and around the country.”
Charlotte has been a hotbed for protests since George Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide outrage. Considering Richardson’s checkered past—Sports Illustrated alleged he once directed a racial slur at one of his scouts—local authorities understandably felt the statue would be a target for vandalism.
Two bronze Panthers were also loaded onto the flatbed, lending credence to the theory that the 4,500-pound sculpture, presented as a tribute for Richardson’s 80th birthday, will return to its familiar resting spot at the stadium’s north entrance once order is restored. However, given what Richardson represents, the Panthers would probably be better served keeping it in storage.