College Sports

Can Charlotte 49ers change name of Jerry Richardson Stadium?

UNC Charlotte's first college football game at Richardson Stadium was Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013.
UNC Charlotte's first college football game at Richardson Stadium was Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. TODD SUMLIN

UNC Charlotte has set no timetable on an announcement on whether the 49ers’ football stadium will continue to bear the name of Carolina Panthers founder and former owner Jerry Richardson.

“The topic is being discussed, but there is no news at this moment,” spokesperson Buffie Stephens said Wednesday.

But in a contract obtained by the Observer between UNC Charlotte’s Athletic Foundation and Richardson, it appears the 49ers have no ability to change the name of Jerry Richardson Stadium, the 49ers’ home since the program’s 2013 inception.

Richardson recently sold the Panthers to David Tepper after a months-long investigation substantiated claims of sexual and racial misconduct by the team’s founder. That led to the NFL fining Richardson a league-record $2.75 million.

The naming-rights contract, dated May 14, 2013, outlines the financial terms of the agreement between Richardson and the school. There is no morals clause in the contract that prohibits certain behavior by either of the parties.

It also states: “The stadium name and field name (McColl-Richardson Field) will be used as primary identifiers in perpetuity for the life of the football complex including any expansions and additions to the complex.”

Under the contract’s terms, Richardson agreed to make a $10 million donation, payable in 10 annual increments of $1 million from 2013 through 2022. That leaves four remaining payments.

If Richardson dies before the donation is fully paid, the unpaid amounts would come from Richardson’s estate.

The 49ers’ football stadium is one of several buildings or landmarks around the Carolinas that bears Richardson’s name or likeness.

Tepper said last week he was “contractually obligated” to keep a 13-foot high statue of Richardson outside Bank of America Stadium.

Richardson has made numerous major financial contributions to his alma mater of Wofford. The school’s new basketball arena is called Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium. The Richardson Family Endowed Scholarship is a full four-year scholarship that includes internships and overseas travel. Wofford also has a statue of Richardson on campus.

“Our physical campus and the lives of our students, faculty, staff and alumni have been indelibly transformed by the generosity of the Richardson family,” Wofford spokesperson Laura Corbin said. “And beyond that, we don’t have any other comment.”

Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.
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