There was a time, not long ago, that a giant statue of Jerry Richardson outside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte seemed quaint and almost sweet. Now it serves as an edifice reminding a fanbase of Richardson touching his female employees, asking them sexual questions, and trying to trick them into kissing him, and that reminder is all thanks to Richardson.
It was revealed Tuesday that Richardson built a clause in the sale contract of the Carolina Panthers that prevents new owner David Tepper from removing the 13-foot statue of the team’s former owner from the north gate of the stadium.
At this point it’s not something to get mad about, it’s just disappointing.
That’s the thing about Richardson — there’s no comfortable way to feel about the man if you’ve been a fan of the Carolina Panthers. He tirelessly worked to bring NFL football to the Carolinas, and proved it could work. It wasn’t long ago that he was seen as a folk hero, the lovable “Big Cat” riding his golf cart around training camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 100-degree heat, meeting fans and talking to kids. At that time the idea of a statue of Richardson didn’t just seem acceptable, it was necessary.
It’s the other side of Richardson that makes this whole situation grotesque. The same Richardson who was condescending to players during CBA negotiations, held the city of Charlotte over a barrel until taxpayer money got routed to stadium upgrades — and recently, and most-disgustingly, sexually harassed numerous women who were employed by the Carolina Panthers, making them fear whenever he’d call them into his office or make them uncomfortable just to go to work.
Those events vastly outrank the good feelings of him bringing football to the Carolinas, because they all involve people. A litany of those hurt and damaged directly by the actions of a man who at best “doesn’t understand modern society,” and at worst is a predatory ghoul whose true colors finally came to light.
The divorce of Jerry Richardson from the Panthers was supposed to start the healing process, and finally allow the team to move forward — but his ego couldn’t allow it. There was an opportunity for one selfless act amidst a sea of selfishness, at a time where continuously reminding a fanbase of Richardson causes more harm than good.
We got a statue instead.