SBJ/April 29-May 5, 2013/Franchises

Richardson: I went to bat for Charlotte by persuading commissioner to move day of league opener

During the first meeting to discuss stadium renovations at Bank of America Stadium in January, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson reminded city leaders he had not only provided Bank of America Stadium for the finale of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, but he also assured it a larger TV audience than might have happened otherwise. (Rain ultimately forced the event to be relocated to Time Warner Cable Arena.)

Richardson, who co-chaired the search that led to the hiring of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, called in a major favor from the commissioner. President Obama’s acceptance speech at the stadium was scheduled for the first Thursday in September, the same night the first nationally televised NFL game of the regular season would air on NBC. The NFL moved the game a day earlier, and Richardson explained the genesis of that move to Charlotte City Council members in a brief monologue that, no doubt, had the intended effect.

Roger Goodell and Jerry Richardson
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
“I think it is worthwhile for you and I to reflect just a little bit on an example of us trying to go to bat for the city,” Richardson told council members. “You know I went to bat for you in the DNC, I think, as strongly as possible. And I think you will agree, too.” He went on to add, “I called the commissioner and said, ‘Just listen to me until I finish. Can you visualize Mount Everest and just moving it 100 feet to your left?’” … I said, ‘I would like for you to move the opening game of the season [to Wednesday].’ I thought he was going to have a heart attack when I asked him the question. Then he said, ‘Well, you know, we’ll have to take this to the membership.’ And I said, ‘That is my second point. I would like for us not to take it to the membership. … I was chairman of the committee that selected you as commissioner and I’m expecting you to take some leadership.’”

The two men resumed their conversation the next morning. Goodell responded that the only time the NFL had made a similar move was during World War II, and he called Richardson’s request a big one.

Richardson’s response: “Well, we’ve got a big problem down in Charlotte.” Goodell reminded Richardson that 31 owners had to be considered, too.

“I said, ‘No, you don’t. Don’t ask them; go ahead and make a decision,’” Richardson said. “As you know, he did and [the Wednesday night game] is what happened.”

— Erik Spanberg

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