Carolina Panthers For Sale
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The city of Charlotte, N.C., is worried about losing its NFL football team, the Carolina Panthers. Owner Jerry Richardson has given up day-to-day operation and has put the team up for sale. This is after the NFL announced an investigation of workplace misconduct allegations against him. David Boraks of member station WFAE has more.
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DAVID BORAKS, BYLINE: As the Panthers were beating the Green Bay Packers in Charlotte last Sunday, there was breaking news off the field. Sports Illustrated reported that the team had reached confidential monetary settlements with at least four women over Richardson's sexually suggestive comments and behavior. He's also accused of using a racial slur with an African-American team scout. After Richardson said he'd sell the team, fans were shocked. Many are sticking by the Panthers, but not everyone. Robert Morgan says he's saddened.
ROBERT MORGAN: Especially the racial allegations, being that the star player of the Panthers is a black man, as well as most of the players on the team - so it made me not want to support the team anymore.
BORAKS: The situation has brought comparisons to former NBA team owner Donald Sterling. He was forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 after he was recorded making racist comments. But that's not a good comparison, says Michael McCann, a sports law expert at the University of New Hampshire.
MICHAEL MCCANN: I think it's a very different scenario with Jerry Richardson, where he's well-liked, where, until now, he had avoided at least public controversy.
BORAKS: Richardson has owned the Panthers since they joined the NFL in 1993. Now may be a good time to sell. The last team sold was the Buffalo Bills in 2014. They went for more than expected, despite having a less desirable market and an older stadium. Forbes magazine values the Panthers at $2.3 billion. Experts think that's a low estimate, even with the scandal surrounding the owner. There's already interest. Here's rapper and producer Sean "Diddy" Combs on Instagram.
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SEAN COMBS: I need to send a message out to everybody in the beautiful state of North Carolina. I will be the best NFL owner that you can imagine.
BORAKS: Combs says it's time for a black majority owner in the NFL. NBA star Steph Curry, who grew up in Charlotte, says he wants in on the deal. Daniel Kaplan reports on pro football for the SportsBusiness Journal. He's not sure they could pull it off.
DANIEL KAPLAN: One of the problems that comes up with these teams is they're so expensive now. It's billions of dollars. The league has very tight restrictions on how much debt the team can carry. There's a very small pool of potential owners that could own these things.
BORAKS: Other names tossed around this week include Bruton Smith, the billionaire owner of NASCAR racetracks, or any of Richardson's co-owners at the Panthers. A bid could come from elsewhere - San Diego, for example, which lost the Chargers to Los Angeles this year. The Panthers are only committed to Charlotte through 2019. Patrick Rishe directs the Sports Business Program at Washington University in St. Louis. He doesn't think the team is going anywhere.
PATRICK RISHE: Some people worried that they might leave Charlotte, but I think that those fears are completely unfounded.
BORAKS: The Panthers say they won't consider any offers until the end of the season. If fans get their way, that won't be until after the Super Bowl in February. For NPR News, I'm David Boraks in Charlotte. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.