Mar 7, 2023 - News

Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson dies at 86

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jerry Richardson, the founder and former owner of the Carolina Panthers, died at age 86 on Wednesday night, the team announced Thursday.

The funeral will be private, but a public celebration of life will take place at 11am on March 18 at Wofford College. It will be live-streamed.

A native of Spring Hope, N.C., Richardson brought the NFL to Charlotte on Oct. 26, 1993, when the Panthers were awarded an expansion bid. The franchise kicked off its inaugural season two years later, in 1995.

  • Richardson helped develop the permanent seat license concept, which funded Bank of America Stadium.
  • He had a nickname for the home field his Panthers would eventually play in: “The Stadium the Fans Built,” per a 2018 Observer story.

Richardson owned the team until 2018 after an explosive Sports Illustrated report in December 2017 detailed allegations of racial and sexual workplace misconduct against him.

  • At least four former Panthers employees received monetary settlements due to Richardson’s inappropriate workplace comments and conduct, per SI.
  • Richardson also allegedly directed a racial slur at a Black scout, according to SI.
  • The NFL launched a months-long investigation into the allegations and ultimately fined Richardson $2.75 million.

In summer 2018, he sold the team to current owner David Tepper for $2.275 billion, a league record at the time.

The big picture: Richardson leaves behind a complicated legacy. On one hand, he brought the NFL to Charlotte, giving the region something new to cheer for. Known for his philanthropy, Richardson was beloved by many of his players and plenty of his staff members — he even paid for them all to attend the Super Bowl in 2016.

  • But after the misconduct allegations and selling the team, Richardson mostly disappeared from the public eye.

Flashback: Richardson, who played in the NFL, also played college football at Wofford in Spartanburg, where the team has held every training camp since its inception.

The Panthers reached the Super Bowl twice during his ownership and brought in some of the team’s most beloved players, including Cam Newton, Thomas Davis and Steve Smith.

  • Under Richardson, the Panthers reached the playoffs eight times, winning six division titles.
  • The football stadium at UNC Charlotte is also named in his honor, as does Wofford’s basketball arena.

What they’re saying: “Jerry Richardson’s contributions to professional football in the Carolinas are historic. With the arrival of the Panthers in 1995, he changed the landscape of sports in the region and gave the NFL fans here a team to call their own,” David and Nicole Tepper said in a statement Thursday.

  • Former Panthers, including Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen shared their condolences. Olsen’s son’s middle name is Jerry for Jerry Richardson.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 7 with details about the celebration of life. 

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