We know the Carolina Panthers make money. The Jacksonville Jaguars probably make money. Owning an NFL team is like owning a Charlotte hospital. If you don't get rich, the fault is yours.
Until Thursday, I had never thought about the Panthers' profits. I thought about their winning percentage.
That changed. According to Deadspin.com, the Panthers turned a profit, of $112 million in two years – the fiscal years ending March 31, 2011 and March 31, 2012.
If you struggle to make a credit card, mortgage and car payment in the same month, the figure is staggering. It's staggering even if you don't.
And this might be business as usual in the NFL. But we don't know how much other teams make. If Deadspin.com is accurate about the Panthers, we know.
Thus, the problem with which team owner Jerry Richardson must contend is staggering.
In his defense, he's entitled to make money. Of course he is. You didn't take the risk. He did. The NFL awarded the franchise to him. He could have put the Panthers anywhere – Pineville, Pinehurst or Isle of Palms. He chose Charlotte.
Charlotte won, as the money the team generates through tourism and taxes attests. Richardson also won – at least until Deadspin.com released his financial statements.
Richardson hoped to invest $300.million and make middle-aged Bank of America Stadium, one of the NFL's best, less old. Two-hundred million would come from the city and state, $100 million from the Panthers. The team would add elevators and escalators to the building, paint and carpet to the suites.
The state already said no. The city said yes.
Although Charlotte's investment makes sense economically, the pressure on Mayor Anthony Foxx and the city council to assess their commitment will be enormous.
It's not about truth, because Richardson is entitled to make money. It's about the appearance of truth.
How do the Panthers ask people who on a big day might have $112 in their wallet to support a team that, in a two year span, allegedly made $112 million?
It's almost as if Donald Trump approaches you on the street and says, “Hey, can you spare a few thousand bucks for a haircut?”
Meanwhile, there's a compelling component to this story that we're all going to try to find: Who leaked the information?
Carolina uses an outside accounting firm and confidentiality agreements are signed. Regardless of the source of the leak, a trust has been violated. If the perpetrator is caught, his/her credibility, and presumably career, has ended.
Who did it and why?
Is it somebody who does not like the Panthers, who resents the lack of playoff appearances, Cam Newton's theatrics or Armanti Edwards potentially great punt return ending when he was tackled by the punter?
Is it somebody who resents Carolina's request for money from the state or from city?
Or is it about Richardson and is it personal?
For the owner and his team, this is an absolute disaster.
To put it in perspective: Compared to the Deadspin.com report, drafting Jimmy Clausen in the second round of the 2010 draft was a really good move.