Charlotte Mayor Says She Is ‘Motivated’ to Keep Panthers in Town After Richardson Sells Team

Mayor Vi Lyles said Tuesday she is “completely motivated” to keep the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte after owner Jerry Richardson sells the NFL organization he founded, David Newton of ESPN.com reports.

So are members of the Charlotte City Council.

Richardson is being investigated by the NFL for workplace misconduct that, according to a Sports Illustrated article published on Sunday, included settlement with at least four people in the organization for his inappropriate behavior.

He announced on Sunday he will put the team up for sale after this season.

Richardson, 81, made a deal in 2013, when the city agreed to pay $75 million in stadium upgrades, to keep the team in Charlotte through the 2018 season.

So the new ownership would have the option in 2019 to move the team that has played all but its first year — the inaugural 1995 season was played in Clemson, South Carolina, while Bank of America Stadium was being completed — in Charlotte to another city.

Lyles and members of the City Council are committed to make sure that doesn’t happen, the mayor said.

“The City of Charlotte values its long-running relationship with the Panthers after more than 22 seasons of NFL football,” Lyles, a season-ticket holder, said in a statement. “The Panthers are part of Charlotte’s fabric. We’ve celebrated victories and anguished over defeats. We understand transitions are inevitable, and we look forward to working with current and future ownership.”

Councilman James Mitchell, the chairman of the new economic development committee charged with working with the Panthers, was on the council in 2002 when the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans. He remembers the grief it brought the city and said losing the Panthers would be just as devastating, if not more so.

“The question will become, ‘What’s wrong with Charlotte?”’ Mitchell said. “I’m committed to being the City Council that kept the Panthers in Charlotte.

“So the role I’d like our committee to play is to make sure we work with the new owner and make sure he or she knows how valuable the Panthers are to the city of Charlotte and then say, ‘What we else can we do? What is your checklist to make sure you’re committed to the Charlotte community?”’

Among those who have expressed interest in the Panthers are Sean “Diddy” Combs, whom Forbes estimates to be worth $820 million. Charlotte native Stephen Curry, the two-time NBA MVP with the Golden State Warriors, and former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick also weighed in on the team when Combs tweeted his interest.

Hall of Famer Eddie Debartolo Jr., the former owner of the 49ers, also has expressed interest.


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