Tepper Puts Emphasis On Change In First Appearance As Panthers Owner
Change "has come" for the NFL Panthers, and new Owner David Tepper "made it clear" he will start with the team's facilities, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Tepper said that the team is "lagging behind much of the NFL," adding that a "'top priority' will be the construction of a new practice facility." Tepper said, "Being one of the few places that doesn't have a new practice field, obviously we're in need." Tepper also said that moving the practice fields away from the area surrounding Bank of America Stadium "clears room for other development." Tepper: "There is other development (opportunity) here. We do (need to) move the practice field somewhere other than right next to the stadium. ... You do open up a lot of area for development." Rodrigue notes there even may be "room for soccer." Tepper, speaking hypothetically, said, "We open up for other things, and I make an investment in MLS and I bring that in here, I bring that many more dollars into the community. That's business in the community and that's more tax dollars generated" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/11). Tepper said of the facilities, “We can’t be less than competitive with other NFL teams. … We’re falling behind a little bit.” Tepper also mentioned new sports gambling legislation as a reason to also look at improving amenities for fan experiences at the stadium, though he did not say whether that would come in the form of a new stadium or renovations to Bank of America Stadium (THE DAILY).
MIXED-USE FACILITY? Tepper said that he would like to "see more events, including 'the right kinds of concerts' and high school state championship football games, played at Bank of America Stadium." Tepper added that Charlotte was the "logical place for the stadium," but also said a "'redo' of [the] stadium is in store." Meanwhile, in Charlotte, Rodrigue, Person & Fowler noted Tepper is "zeroing in" on candidates for team president, and has two names in mind to "fill current front office vacancies" to replace former President Danny Morrison and former COO Tina Becker (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 7/10). Tepper said that he is looking for candidates with experience running a sports team, as well as developing a business. Tepper also stressed the importance that replacements in the front office help him execute his philosophy of "openness on all sides" following the allegations surrounding Jerry Richardson (THE DAILY).
NOT CHANGING EVERYTHING: In Charlotte, Joseph Person wrote not to expect Tepper to "shake things up -- at least not in the short term -- on a coaching staff that has been to the playoffs in four of the past five seasons." Tepper said of the team's football side, "I'm not looking to do too much there." Panthers coach Ron Rivera "made presentations to all three of the prospective buyers during their Charlotte visits, giving them an overview of his coaching philosophy, expectations and the team's personnel" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/11).
UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: Tepper said that he will "accept nothing less than an 'open and safe' work environment" under his ownership. Tepper: "This is going to be an open place. So there are not going to be non-disclosure agreements no matter what in this new place. That was then, this is now" (AP, 7/10). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler in a front-page piece writes Tepper "got off to a roaring start" yesterday by "being more transparent about his plans in 30 minutes than Richardson was over the past 15 years combined" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/11). Charlotte-based WFAE-FM's David Boraks wrote Tepper was "candid and seemed comfortable with reporters -- in contrast to Richardson, who rarely stood before the cameras" (WFAE.org, 7/10). The Observer's Rodrigue tweeted, "I can't get over how approachable David Tepper is, and how he remembers faces and names. This guy is the real deal...I'd imagine he's not blowing smoke when he talks about an open environment in the organization" (TWITTER.com, 7/10).
STATUE OF LIMITATIONS: Tepper, asked what he would do with the 13-foot statue of Richardson that sits outside the stadium's North entrance, given Richardson's alleged sexual harassment, said, "I'm contractually obligated to keep that statue as it is" (THE DAILY). THE OBSERVER's Fowler noted when he writes columns about the statue, and his "belief it should be taken down," his email and social media "runs almost exactly 50-50" between people approving of and against removing the statue. With his comment, Tepper "doesn't really alienate either side." Fowler: "He's got an excuse for not taking down the statue, even if he wanted to do so. If he didn't want to do so, he's got an excuse for that, too." The whole thing "doesn't pass the smell test," and the Richardson statue has "outlived its usefulness" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/11). USA TODAY's Lorenzo Reyes wrote by keeping the statue, a "very visible part of an ugly chapter in the team's recent past isn't going anywhere" (USATODAY.com, 7/10). In N.Y., Kirk Meyer notes whether Tepper "wanted to remove the statue is unclear" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/11). THE MMQB's Jonathan Jones wrote everything about Tepper's "inflection and body language during the delivery of that sentence indicated that, if he had his druthers, the statue would not remain as is." All of this "points to Richardson including that bit in the deal, even though we were led to believe he never wanted the statue to begin with" (SI.com, 7/10). NFL.com's Ian Rapoport cited sources as saying that keeping the statue was "included in the contract terms presented to all the bidders by the seller’s lawyer," and it "sounds like it was non-negotiable" (TWITTER.com, 7/10).