Demands to rename UNC Charlotte’s Jerry Richardson Stadium are resurfacing after his statue was removed from the Bank of America Stadium on June 10. Jerry Richardson sold the Carolina Panthers to David Tepper in 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment and racist comments. When Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers, the statue was to remain in perpetuity; however, it was removed due to the Black Lives Matter protests in Charlotte and across the nation. Concerned about potential attempts to topple the statue, the Panthers said its removal was “in the interest of public safety.” The Charlotte Observer reported that the removal is permanent.
Jerry Richardson, 83, is the founder and former owner of the Carolina Panthers. In 2013, he signed a contract to donate a total of $10 million to The Athletic Foundation of UNC Charlotte in increments of $1 million until June 2022. The gift agreement included several stipulations like the controversial name change. “The stadium name and field name will be used as the primary identifiers in perpetuity for the life of the football complex including any expansions and additions to the complex,” says the agreement. The donor was also promised 12 prime football seat licenses, 12 season tickets per year and three VIP parking spots. Richardson has three checks left to write to fulfill his agreement.
Five years later, the NFL launched an investigation into Richardson following allegations of workplace misconduct towards his Black and female colleagues. According to a Sports Illustrated report, at least four former Panthers employees received financial settlements for their silence. It describes “Jean Day” on Fridays when Richardson asked female employees to turn around so he could admire and make comments. He was also said to have used racial slurs against a Black scout.
In Aug. 2018, following the NFL investigation that resulted in a $2.75 million fine, the Board of Trustees determined unanimously that UNC Charlotte would honor the naming rights agreement for the Jerry Richardson Stadium. The decision sparked backlash across the University.
“We cannot claim to champion inclusion, diversity and accountability if we continue to honor Jerry Richardson. Until we remove his name from our stadium and properly address racism, misogyny and sexual harassment on campus, we are just paying lip service to the struggle of oppressed people,” wrote former Niner Times Opinion Editor Nikolai Mather in Sept. 2018.
Now, in the wake of the synchronous, nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a new petition has been created demanding the UNC System rename all of its buildings that honor “racist, white supremacists.” The petition, created by Cameryn Lytton, originally only called for the removal of Jerry Richardson’s name from UNC Charlotte’s football stadium.
In a June 16 statement to the Niner Times, spokeswoman Buffie Stephens affirmed that the University will not consider removing the name: “Two years ago, after review, the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees agreed to follow the terms of the naming rights contract with Mr. Richardson. The University continues to adhere to the terms of the agreement.”
University Policy 602.9, Section 5 states that the name may be changed if the foundation or donor is involved in illegal activities and/or the parties are engaged in conduct that damages UNC Charlotte’s reputation. If this does occur, the name will be removed and the University is at liberty to keep the gift. However, that policy was formed in 2016, predating the 2013 naming agreement with Richardson.