CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper held a conference call with local media for over a half hour on Wednesday, discussing a wide range of subjects, from Cam Newton to layoffs, a future stadium and more.
It was the first time Tepper spoke on the record about the team's release of franchise quarterback Cam Newton, who went on to sign as a free agent with the New England Patriots.
“I didn’t know so many people in Charlotte knew a word that began with F," he joked.
Tepper said it was a tough decision, and that his wife, Nicole, shed tears over it.
"We really respected Cam and still do obviously," Tepper said. "I wish him the best possible.”
Tepper also lamented the fact that the Panthers request to have a limited number fans in Bank of America Stadium for the Sept. 13 opener was denied by state and local health officials.
"Listen I understand (Gov.) Cooper has a difficult job with COVID," Tepper said. "We do think we can do this, we don't think we can do it as a full stadium obviously. We do think we can do limited fans in the stadium, based on pure science."
Here are some other topics Tepper covered:
Panthers social justice discussions
The team spent their practice time on Saturday discussing social justice issues and ways to make an impact. Tepper says he spoke to the team more about diversity in the workplace, he says a problem in the NFL.
“It’s a continued dialogue," Tepper said. "From my perspective, one thing we’ve tried to do, and will try do harder is diversity of our workforce.”
Potential for a new stadium and/or stadium roof
As we've reported, Tepper was actively shopping for at least a stadium roof within the last year.
But Wednesday, he indicated a possible change of heart.
"With this COVID, it's pushed everything back and all decisions back," said Tepper. "Open air stadiums with beautiful weather seem a lot better to me than they did last year to tell you the truth."
The removal of the Jerry Richardson statue
In June, the Panthers removed the statue of former owner Jerry Richardson from the stadium grounds, citing public safety. The team indicating it was worried non-peaceful protestors would attempt to tear down the state of Richardson, who sold the team to Tepper after bombshell allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Tepper had previously said he was contractually obligated to keep the statue in place as part of the sale agreement.
On Wednesday, Tepper indicated the statue will not be back.
“I don’t think things will ever be quieted down," Tepper said. "That’s that. And nor should they in some respects.”
On Charlotte FC's debut delayed from 2021 to 2022
Tepper was hoping to begin the team's first season in MLS with a big crowd and celebration.
"That became highly unlikely next March when we'd start our season," he said. "The league and us determined together it was better we delayed for the next year. But I do think if COVID didn't come we would have been ready."
On layoffs within the team during the pandemic and economic crisis
“Difficult decisions," he said. "Decisions that still keep me up. I don’t take one person lightly.”
On new head coach Matt Rhule
"I think Matt's been doing a great job. He's a great evaluator and great motivator," said Tepper. "One thing you guys haven't written up so much, he has a Master's degree in educational psychology. It doesn't hurt in how you deal with people, particularly in this year."