CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers have moved the statue of former owner Jerry Richardson from outside the North Gate of Bank of America Stadium to an undisclosed site for what the team called safety concerns amid the racial unrest in the country.
The first portion of the statue, which includes Richardson holding out a football between two larger-than-life Panthers, was placed on a flatbed truck by a crane and covered by a blue tarp.
A team spokesperson said it was unclear whether the removal is permanent. However, it was made clear the statue was being removed and not destroyed.
There have been rumblings on social media that the statue may be torn down as protests continued in Charlotte following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody on Memorial Day.
Richardson sold the team to David Tepper in 2018 amid allegations of racial and sexual misconduct that first were reported late in the 2017 season.
"We were aware of the most recent conversation surrounding the Richardson statue and are concerned there may be attempts to take it down,'' a team spokesperson said. "We are moving the statue in the interest of public safety.''
The 13-foot statue was presented to Richardson in 2016 as a tribute to the team founder, who brought the NFL to the Carolinas in 1995.
"Mr. Richardson has made no public comments about the Panthers or the NFL since the sale of the team and doesn't plan to do so now as a private citizen. He has worked to treat all people fairly in his business and personal lives and, like many other Americans, is troubled by recent events in Minneapolis, Charlotte, and around the country," Richardson's spokesman, Jim Gray, said Wednesday.
Late in 2017, the team announced it was investigating Richardson for racial and sexual misconduct. That led to an NFL investigation, which resulted in a $2.75 million fine.
This coincided with the sale of the team to Tepper for an NFL-record $2.275 billion. There was a clause written into the sale saying the statue could not be removed from its site.
Safety Tre Boston first joined the Panthers in 2014 when Richardson was the owner and he rejoined the organization in 2019 after Tepper took over.
He has walked the streets of Charlotte in protest of racial injustice because Tepper encouraged players to speak their mind.
He has heard Richardson discourage players from protesting against social injustice all the way back to 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem.
With all that, Boston said, it was "best for the community'' to remove the statue.
"For me, the Carolina Panthers, we hold ourselves to a standard,'' Boston said on a Zoom conference call Wednesday afternoon. "We hold ourselves with pride. We do the right things.''
Boston wouldn't say whether Tepper talked to him and other players before removing the statue.
"My guy talks to me a lot,'' Boston said with a smile. "He might have and might have not. Hey, man, we're all in this together.''
Boston feels Tepper is a "friend'' when they talk, something he said he never experienced with Richardson, because they never had that close of a relationship.
Instead of judging Richardson and what he stood for, Boston said, "I can say for the things he did not allow us to do, we're now seeing that wasn't the right thing.''