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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.

New Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper answers a question during a news conference at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. on Tuesday. (AP)

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’s Uncle Ben 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.

New Panthers 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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