CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Meet the new boss. Not even close to the same as the old boss. The David Tepper era is officially underway for the Carolina Panthers, as the new owner held an introductory press conference at Bank of America Stadium Tuesday.
“It’s a new day for this organization and hopefully we’ll have bigger and better things to come, including a Super Bowl championship,” Tepper said.
Here are five key takeaways from Tuesday’s news conference
The Jerry Richardson statue is staying put
Let’s start with where Tepper ended his Q&A session: the Jerry Richardson statue. Since Richardson put the team up for sale, speculation has run rampant about its future outside Bank of America Stadium. Well, it’s not going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
“I am contractually obligated to keep that statue as it is,” Tepper said.
Tepper provided no further details and the news conference ended shortly after he made the surprising announcement.
The Panthers need some new facilities
Tepper said if the Panthers are going to keep up with the competition, they’re going to need some facility upgrades, namely a new practice field. Many NFL teams have state-of-the-art indoor practice facilities that can be used at all times during offseason workouts and for practices during the season.
That isn’t the case for Carolina. The team currently practices next door to the stadium, but in the event of inclement weather, the Panthers are often forced to use a ballroom in the Charlotte Convention Center in uptown.
“At this point, given our practice field and what other people have in the league, we’re falling behind a little bit,” said Tepper. “A top priority would be thinking about that practice field.”
And those upgrades include changes to — or replacing — Bank of America Stadium.
“Sometimes you get lucky when you don’t think you’re lucky,” he said. “One of the things we’re lucky is we do have an old stadium that we have to re-do and we do have an old practice field.”
Tepper did say the Carolinas are "the right place" for the Panthers to play their home game, but it's unclear if the team will move out of uptown Charlotte.
The. Culture. Is. Changing.
A dark cloud has been hanging over the Panthers since allegations of misconduct and harassment came against Jerry Richardson last December. Tepper made it crystal clear that things are different with new ownership.
“Whatever was, was. This is now, OK? This is going to be an open place,” Tepper said. “There’s not going to be non-disclosure agreements, no matter what in this new place. That was then, this is now. This is going to be an open place where people are going to have the right people to talk to, to come up with problems, and if I do something incredibly stupid, they should be talking about me. That’s what this place is going to be.”
Tepper said he thought the way the organization was structured made it impossible for employees to report problems to management. Not anymore. Tepper said he plans on implementing what he called an open, family environment “where everyone’s safe.”
“There’s going to be no impediment to that in the future. Whatever that means, whatever that brings, it will bring, and whatever falls, that will fall,” Tepper said.
Community matters to Tepper
Tepper, who grew up in the inner-city of Pittsburgh, said it’s important for him and the organization to be cornerstones in the community, and he recognized that several of his players are appreciative of their opportunity and enjoy giving back to those in need.
“There are some incredibly good guys here, really good guys that love this country that don’t get said enough,” Tepper said. “And I think good guys that are charitable on this team. I hope to get more involvement from them, but they’re already involved.”
Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Thomas Davis are just a few of the Panthers with their own foundations and charities in Charlotte.
“Ever watch ‘Spiderman?’ I love ‘Spiderman,’” Tepper said. “With great power comes great responsibility. I think I have that, and I think our players have that and a lot of them appreciate that.”
He even recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
"I'm a big believer in social justice, and I'm actually a big believer in the country," Tepper said. "You guys know the Pledge of Allegiance? You know, to the flag of the United State of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That's what it's all about, liberty and justice for all."
In addition to charity work, Tepper said he wants the team’s stadium to be used by the city more often for big events. He specifically mentioned hosting concerts and high school football championships. Currently, the NCHSAA plays its championships on college campuses across the state, and South Carolina high schools play their championship games in Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
Don’t expect much change when it comes to the team on the field
If you were hoping Tepper would announce black uniforms or a new logo at midfield (can we please put the Panthers logo there?), Tuesday’s news conference was a disappointment. And the lack of changes will also extend to the product on the field.
“You actually are blessed with a pretty good football side here,” he said. “A head coach who understands himself, and I appreciate some of the changes that were made on that side.”
When asked about hiring a new team president, Tepper said he’s down to a couple of candidates, both of whom have experience running a football team and are open to the team’s open policies.
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