After the Jerry Richardson era of Panthers history ended in disgrace, new owner Davjd Tepper didn’t have a very high bar to clear.
But Tepper hit all the high notes Tuesday in his first press conference, saying he wanted to create an “open” and atmosphere, while praising a football team which he said he was “blessed” to inherit.
“I like to have an open environment,” Tepper said. “Where everybody feels safe like a family.”
That might not always have been the case in the past, after Richardson was accused of racial and sexual harassment before he chose to sell the team amid a league investigation.
And while Tepper will be saddled with the 13-foot bronze statue of Richardson outside Bank of America Stadium — he said he was “contractually obligated” to leave it where it was — he does hope to change things.
That doesn’t mean football, but he wants to create an environment which allows his business side and football side to work together to have an impact on his community.
“Whatever was, was,” he said. “This is now. … There has been an atmosphere, where the organization wasn’t allowed to be a team, and not talk about things. There will be no impediment to that in the future.”
He stressed his commitment to “social justice,” and made several reference to the impact he hopes to have on the community at large.
“I want to accentuate the positive here,” he said. “Hopefully I can bring that out.”
He mentioned Tuesday that he had also had many positive things to say about Trump’s economic policies, but he made it clear he wanted to empower players in a community (and on a team) which hasn’t always fostered an activist spirit.
“I’m patriotic,” he said, before launching into an impromptu Pledge of Allegiance. “. . . With liberty and justice for all. That’s what this is all about.”
While that may sound boilerplate, it’s quite a departure from the Richardson era, where players seldom felt safe speaking out. But it’s clear that a number of things will be changing in Charlotte. Just not the statue.