Carolina Panthers future: Jerry Richardson reportedly mandates team sale

Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Relocation fears are understandable, but they're unfounded.

Rumors have been swirling regarding the Carolina Panthers and a potential move ever since Jerry Richardson had his heart transplant. An aging, ailing owner -- paired with a schism inside the Richardson family became the perfect soil to nurture rumors, which reached a fevered pitch when reports emerged that the mayor of Los Angeles was heavily courting the Panthers during the Democratic National Convention. Yesterday, news came out that Richardson has a long-term plan for the organization, and while it may scare a lot of people -- it's time to step back.

A report filed by Erik Spanberg of the Charlotte Business journal outlines a plan by Jerry Richardson to have the Carolina Panthers sold two years following his death:

"The revelation marks the first time details have been disclosed about the Panthers' fate beyond the life of Richardson, the founding owner. Mark and Jon Richardson, his sons, worked as Panthers executives before Jerry Richardson forced them out in 2009. Until then, everyone assumed Mark and Jon Richardson would own and operate the team after their father's death. Since then, Richardson and the Panthers have declined to disclose succession plans."

There's a widespread, and incorrect, assumption that dictates ownership change is tantamount to team relocation. It's a natural fear for sports fans, but this isn't the NBA where team moves are part of the league's DNA. It has been fifteen years since the NFL's last relocation, when the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. In that same time span no fewer than 13 teams have been sold, none of whom have tabled major relocation plans.

Herein lies the poker game. Obviously the city of Charlotte wants the team to stay for a variety of reasons, and it's Jerry Richardson's role as a business owner to maximize his team's value. Like it or not, he'll milk the city's fear for all it's worth -- hence the sales tax hike, and $125-million stadium improvements. This is the cherry on top of the sundae, where Jerry Richardson's estate post-death can offer not only a professional franchise, but a newly renovated stadium.

Teams move for two reasons: Poor market, and lack of stadium plans. Carolina has neither problem. Chide the PSL system for locking people in, but it has resulted in a 7-9 team ranking sixth in NFL attendance, and boasting better home figures than any team still in the playoffs. Moving the Carolina Panthers wouldn't just be bad business, it would be abject stupidity. Not all multi-millionaires are geniuses, but they're not stupid when it comes to their money.

Change is a scary thing for fans of a team, and it's natural to have fears, but relax. If the Panthers were languishing at the bottom of the league in ticket sales, and there wasn't a plan to revitalize Bank of America Stadium -- then it would be time to worry. As it stands you're looking at a storm in a teacup, and yet another example of people getting worked up for no reason.

(H/T to stnecldcr8z for his fanshot)

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