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Time Out For Sports: Panthers, Hornets, Knights Drop CPI Security Over CEO's Racist Comments

Carolina Panthers' Bank of America Stadium
Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Knights and several area universities have severed ties with CPI Security over a racist remark by the company's CEO.

There has been a lot going on the past few days. The Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Knights have severed a longtime relationship with CPI Security over what many are calling a racist remark by the company's CEO.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes a softer stance on players protesting. Michael Jordan gives $100 million for social justice efforts. And what does the end of the 2019-2020 season for the Charlotte Hornets mean for fans with tickets? With "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to talk about these topics and a few others is Langston Wertz Jr., a longtime sportswriter with the Charlotte Observer.

Gwendolyn Glenn: Hi, Langston.

Langston Wertz Jr.: Hi Gwen. How are you?

Glenn: I'm good. Let's start with the Panthers and Knights cutting ties with CPI Security. Tell us what caused team officials to end the relationship.

Langston Wertz Jr, a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.
Credit Langston Wertz
Langston Wertz Jr, a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.

Wertz: There was a social justice group called Queen City Unity that the head of sent out a mass email to  various Charlotte companies to kind of take this step forward in the Black Lives Matter movement. Kind of asking them what their plans were. The head of CPI, Ken Gill, basically said that they need to focus on black on black violence and things like that. Instead of  this movement. The Panthers lead by Marty Hurney was the first team to pull their sponsorships. CPI had a real large presence with the Panthers. The Hornets followed suit, NC State and South Carolina also followed suit. Charlotte Knights. So it definitely kind of escalated very, very swiftly and just kind of shows you the power of the movement.

Glenn: Has, CPI responded since all of these ties have been cut?

Wertz: Yeah. Mr. Gill put out a message of support saying that, you know, that email didn't reflect his or the company's values. It's up to the public to decide whether they feel that is authentic or not.

Glenn: OK, well, let's move to the demonstrations being held nationwide against police brutality and racism, in how a lot of NFL players and professional athletes and others are marching, speaking out. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who had not supported players like former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was basically exiled after taking a seat in 2016 and then a knee during the national anthem in protest of those same issues. Goodell had this to say this weekend with the National Football League.

Goodell: We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We the National Football League believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much needed change in this country.

Glenn: Now, this statement by Goodell came after superstar players like Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, a Clemson grad, and others demanded almost the exact words that he said in the video. How do you interpret what Goodell said, Langston? And do you think it's sincere?

Wertz: For him to say the words, we're sorry, black lives matter,  there'd be no NFL without black players. That's significant whether or not you believe he's sincere. I think the NFL players need to hold him accountable. You know, when those offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator jobs come open that black men have not been able to get, head coaching jobs, general managers jobs, those types of things. The jobs that can lead to real change in the league are open, he needs to be reminded, you know, this is now where you stand.

Glenn: Now, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees drew a lot of criticism when he said players shouldn't disrespect the American flag when kneeling. Something Kaepernick and others have said misses the point entirely. Here's what Panthers linebacker Andre Smith had to say.

Smith: For him to, four years or however long it's been since Kapernick was kneeling, to still not understand it, you know, is a little bit dicey. Just not getting through to the other side.

Wertz: You know, Drew Brees is one of the more popular players in the NFL, one of the most well-known players in NFL. He's done a lot for his city of New Orleans, has donated millions of dollars to Katrina relief. And for him to acknowledge that what he said was insensitive I think is significant. I think, you know, knowing him, I think that really is his true belief. But, you know, the flag comment stings for a lot of black guys. But I think Brees' comment is a positive step.

Glenn: Well, you have some of Brees' own teammates, who say they will never wear his jersey again and who have come out supporting others who have burned Brees' jersey. And they don't seem ready to forgive him for his comments at this point.

Wertz: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, I just think they're big steps because it now gives you a chance to hold them accountable, having more of record that this is where he stands. So now you have a backup where you stand.

Glenn: Well, let's switch to the NBA and the rest of the season. Briefly explain why the Hornets are out and will people get refunds for their tickets?

Wertz: You have an option. You can get a refund. If you have Ticketmaster your refund comes automatically. If you bought tickets at the gate, there's an email that you can email. I think it's on the Hornets' website. You do have the option to use a credit for next season with a credit bonus, as I'm told, so you get a little bit extra. The Hornets' record just wasn't good enough. They took, you know, teams that were going to have a realistic chance, they felt, of making the playoffs and the Hornets were outside of that. And that I think the larger issue is, you know, what type of concessions was the NBA giving to teams who aren't going to Orlando to practice and play and they're gonna be out for a very extended amount of time.

Glenn: OK, well, let's stick with the NBA. Former NBA player and Hornets owner, Michael Jordan, who has at times been criticized for not taking a more active role politically and on issues of race, announced that he is donating $100 million to support social justice efforts.

Wertz: Well, that's going to be 10 million a year for 10 years. It is going to go to companies trying to foster social justice, immigration, equality throughout the country. You know, Jordan has had a history of really putting his money, you know, into causes. He bailed out Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools' middle school athletics. You know, he built a medical facility on the west side of Charlotte. You know, he's not the most outspoken person. Everybody is not a Muhammad Ali. But I think in his own way, he's making a difference.

Glenn: OK. And finally, high school football returns today with private schools. And I understand there was some big news today regarding public schools.

Wertz: The North Carolina High School Athletic Association, which governs the 400-plus majority public schools. They do have some non-boarding parochial schools and charter schools. They announced today that they're going to lift their dead period next Monday, June 15, to allow teams to potentially come back and resume summer start, summer workouts, which private schools began today. Each individual LEA is going to have to decide whether or not its schools can come back and play. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has to make a decision. Union County schools I know are going to make a decision Monday afternoon. This doesn't mean that the football season is going to start on time. It doesn't mean the football practice is going to start with hitting on August 5 as they planned to. It really is going to depend on where Governor Cooper allows in phase three and how many people can be together at once.

Glenn: Okay, well, Langston, thanks for being with us on time now for sports.

Wertz You're welcome. Thank you.

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.