Panthers Fans Shocked, Saddened
WFAE spoke to several Carolina Panthers fans uptown Monday afternoon about misconduct allegations against owner Jerry Richardson and his intention to sell the team.
Most were like Lee Aycoth, who said said she was shocked and disappointed to hear the charges leveled against Richardson and his decision to sell the team.
"It's really disappointing to hear, especially because they are such a first-class organization. It makes me very nervous. I do not want them to leave Charlotte," Aycoth said.
Brian McCready agrees, saying, "I thought it was unfortunate. He seems like a great guy. I've lived in Charlotte since the Panthers started and it seems like he's been nothing but good for the community."
David Gibson says he gives Richardson credit for bringing an NFL team to Charlotte, but says the charges brought against him are too serious to be ignored.
"They should be taken seriously and investigated and looked into," Gibson said. "It's definitely sad to hear. I'm a season ticket holder and go to the games all the time, but hopefully he can sell it to someone that keeps the team here is Charlotte is the main thing."
But Lori Harding says having the investigation play out is just as important. She says if Richardson has broken the law and offended those he works with, he should own up to it, accept punishment and follow through on his pledge to sell the team. She's not overly concerned about a new owner moving the team out of Charlotte, which she described as a good market for professional football. She predicted that the local business community will do what it can to purchase the team.
"I think there is enough of a community here with sufficient financial resources to purchase the team and I think most buyers would consider keeping it here," Harding said. "Charlotte is a good market."
For some other fans, the issue goes beyond whether the Panthers stay in Charlotte or move elsewhere. For Robert Morgan, it's a matter of a loss of trust in a community leader. He says he felt hurt personally by Richard's alleged actions and that the charges have changed how he feels about the Panthers' organization.
"I thought it was pretty sad that someone who has brought a lot of business to the economy would have such allegations against, him especially the racially allegations, since the star player of the Panthers is a black man, as well as most of the players on the team," Morgan said. "It made me not want to support the team anymore being that I didn't want to support a business where the owner of the business has a history of sexual and racial misconduct."
Morgan called Richardson's decision to sell the team a "cop out."
"He doesn't want to face the possible fallout from the allegations, but I also feel like it is in the best interest of the team and the organization because there will always be the negative connotations when it comes to Jerry Richardson's name now," .
Most fans said they think the announcement that the team will be sold takes pressure off the players and makes the issue less of a distraction as they prepare for the playoffs.