It is a testament to the strangeness surrounding the Carolina Panthers these days that the first two questions reporters asked Cam Newton Wednesday were about Diddy possibly buying the team and then installing Colin Kaepernick to compete with Newton as Carolina’s starting quarterback.
Newton didn’t dismiss either possibility out of hand, which also says something about a pre-Christmas week that in normal circumstances would be all about a 10-4 NFL team that needs one more victory to reach the playoffs.
“I mean it was amusing, you know what I’m saying?” Newton said of Diddy’s interest, which the hip-hop and business mogul tweeted Sunday night to his 13.9 million followers on Twitter shortly after Jerry Richardson announced he was selling the team. “Obviously he is a person who has a lot of influence in the culture. It was just cool. ... I kind of feel like a lot of people – you don’t know whether ... is it serious? Is it not serious? How’s it going to play out? How do you even sell something of this magnitude?”
At this point, no one quite knows. Everything is in play. Newton did make a vague reference to “hearing” that the Panthers will ultimately stay in Charlotte no matter who owns the team.
“Oh, of course I want it to stay in Charlotte,” Newton said of the Panthers franchise. “It should stay in Charlotte. And from the things that I’m hearing, it will stay in Charlotte. So I’m not nervous about it moving.”
‘I’m cool with’ Kaepernick, Cam says
I don’t think Diddy will ultimately own the Panthers – he’s just the biggest name to express interest at the moment. There will be many suitors for the Panthers, and I believe the NFL owners would ultimately prefer someone even richer (Forbes recently estimated Diddy’s net worth at $820 million; the Panthers’ asking price is expected to be about triple that figure).
I do think that Diddy – aka Sean Combs, Puff Daddy and P. Diddy – could find enough partners to get the money needed to buy the Panthers, however, and apparently he is taking the idea seriously enough to start looking.
Steph Curry has already expressed a playful interest in being a minority partner, and with Diddy’s connections, he could find many more from the sports and entertainment worlds. So while the idea seems far-fetched in some ways, so did the idea of Donald Trump becoming the U.S. president 10 years ago or the idea of Richardson suddenly announcing he was going to sell the Panthers less than one week ago. Diddy is an astute businessman and has been an enormous success in both the music and fashion worlds.
On the other hand, Diddy faces a sexual harassment suit from his former personal chef, and his idea about Kaepernick possibly becoming the Panthers’ starting quarterback in 2018 is completely ludicrous.
“I will be the best NFL owner that you can imagine,” Diddy said in a video he posted on Instagram, in which he also called the team the “North Carolina Panthers” and promised great halftime shows and multiple Super Bowl wins. “I will immediately address the Colin Kaepernick situation and put him in the running for next year’s starting quarterback. It’s just competition, baby.”
Newton is so much better than Kaepernick as a player at this point in their lives that would never happen, although Newton was diplomatic when asked about possibly competing with the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the national anthem protests and is out of football this season.
“I’m cool with it,” Newton said. “Whatever happens, happens.”
‘I left disgruntled’
What Newton is not cool with is the idea of the Panthers being sold at all. Richardson had a private meeting with the team’s captains Sunday after Carolina’s 31-24 victory over Green Bay and told the players he had decided to sell the team – this only hours after an explosive report in Sports Illustrated that alleged all sorts of workplace misconduct from Carolina’s 81-year-old owner, including sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur.
Newton said that when Richardson told him and the other captains he was about to announce he was selling his team that none of the players liked the idea.
Said Newton: “I didn’t approve of it. At that time, a person of his age, he (Richardson) was already stuck on his mind. Everybody didn’t want it to happen. But he was stuck on that. You have to respect that. ... So I left disgruntled because of that. ... He has enlightened me on so many different things, on the field as well as off. … So for (Richardson) to kind of be ejected from my life on the sports side, I don’t know how to even handle that.”
Handle it he must, though, for these are unusual times and will continue to be. The Panthers have always taken the road less traveled, but the twists and turns that still await all of us in this saga are unparalleled in the franchise’s history. It’s enough to make even a franchise quarterback tremble a little as he talked about the uncertainty and the blockbuster stories that have emerged over the past few days.
“I was scared on Sunday,” Newton said. “And I’m still scared now.”