I found this piece on Panthers Wire to be very thought provoking and dead on in some ways but I think I add some focus to it as Panthers fan from day 1.
According to Silver, Richardson’s actions caused tension from the start of the talks and forced several owners to apologize to players on his behalf.
This past season, specifically during Week 3 at the very height of the much-publicized protests during the national anthem, Richardson once again displayed an inability to empathize with players.
While players like Cam Newton, Julius Peppers and Thomas Davis found different methods of speaking up, none of the Panthers kneeled or sat on the sidelines during the anthem.
Surely, he’ll still be respected by some, whether that be a fellow NFL shot-caller or a coach or player whose life was changed for the better because of an opportunity he gave them. He’ll also certainly be held in low regard, which is deserving given what we have learned over the past handful of months.
Whatever his fingerprint is, it won’t be what he wanted it to be.
Richardson spent decades carefully crafting his image, but his behind-the-scenes behavior has cost Richardson more than just his football team. He lost the ability to control his own legacy.
I’m not sure I would call his future legacy ‘ironic’. I find it more a tragedy in the classical sense. At some point we will get the details on what transpired for him to pay off four people to remain quiet about certain interactions. The question is whether those details will tarnish his legacy.
When Richardson first announced his intent to found a team I didn’t think the Carolinas were what the NFL was looking for. A two state team? The fan base is way too spread out I thought. Charlotte isn’t big enough to support a team on its own (it’s still not btw) but Richardson got it done. The ‘win’ was more due to his business acumen than his experience as a former player. Even so once the team was announced he seemed like the perfect NFL owner at the time.
The reason is Richardson had an affinity for the Rooney family and the Steelers dynasty. He claimed he wanted to follow their model. The early success of the franchise seemed to bear that out. Looking back now I think maybe we gave Richardson too much credit as far as his intentions. His initial investment was $209 million, into a sure fire money making machine. In 23 years’ time he turned that into a $2.275 billion franchise. That’s a pretty sweet return when you consider how much he made annually as well.
So was it about family or money? The first crack in the Panthers family armor was when he forced his two sons Mark and Jon out of the organization in 2009. We heard some rumors of bickering between the sons but have yet to get any detailed explanation of what the tipping point was. Once Richardson passes the boys will jump back in I thought at the time. But not so fast…
In 2013 Richardson announced he has put together a succession plan in the event of his death and it didn’t include passing the team to his sons. The team would instead be sold. At least he did put in the stipulation that the team would not be moved. I don’t think the current agreement with new owner David Tepper includes such a requirement.
I assumed at the time of Richardson’s announcement of a succession plan it was more an attempt to create leverage in getting his new stadium deal. It worked, at least for the fan base. We’ve been terrified ever since the team would get moved. I think any market that can’t support a Super Bowl has the potential of being moved to one that can. I’m sure Browns fans, Colts fans, Raiders fans, Rams fans and Chargers fans all thought there was no way their team would move. It could happen in Carolina, don’t you doubt it. For now it seems we have dodged that bullet, for now.
So things certainly didn’t turn out like I imagined from the ownership side as compared to the exuberance we felt when the team was founded. A team for all of the Carolinas to support, a self-made family business given his two sons also worked for the team. A former player reaching the ranks of ownership yet also a great corporate success story in his own right. The Richardson family can now focus on what really made them successful, fried chicken.
The fact Richardson was so insistent the team stay in the Carolinas is the only reason I’m not railing on him for being so cold about selling the team. I think his issues run deep. He was the face of the ownership NFL lockout in 2011. I’ll never forget the part of his speech to the ownership where he yelled ‘We need to take our league back!’ and slammed his fist down. He certainly didn’t sound like a former player then. What happened to the ‘Love of the game’ stuff? I think the most recent CBA result soured Richardson’s view of the NFL in some fashion. His attitude at the time is the owners deserve a bigger portion of the pie. It could also be more simple, a loss of control of the NFL’s future. I’m doing my best to not run down the full on cynical hole here but honestly what has Richardson done to put a positive spin on his contribution?
To answer my own question, he did have Greg Olsen and family flown to the hospital where Olsen’s son would have lifesaving surgery. That was heartwarming. He also funds a lot of charity work as well.
Otherwise he’s in the owners’ booth or guy riding around in a golf cart with a scowl on his face. Okay maybe he’s not always scowling but you are hard pressed to find a picture of him smiling. Google it…the best I can find is a half-cocked grin.
So what will Richardson’s NFL legacy be in the Carolinas? My guess…
His legacy will be that he brought NFL football to the Carolinas, but soured on the NFL and eventually bailed out when his skeletons were exposed. The Richardson era started out with so much promise and excitement has now ended in dullness and a soon quick goodbye.
Never forget Richardson brought the Bo Berry biscuit the Carolinas as well. That is not a small contribution to overall sweet goodness in my book. Besides I can still get me a six pack of Bo Berries every Sunday. History favors longevity.
You will have decide to decide for yourself which one he will be remembered for most. Either way I find it a tragedy it had to end this way.