Tom Sorensen

This ‘Panther decision’ – likely Jerry Richardson’s doing - might haunt the new owner

Free agent safety Eric Reid, left, is better at his job than quarterback Colin Kaepernick is at his. Neither has a job in the NFL.
Free agent safety Eric Reid, left, is better at his job than quarterback Colin Kaepernick is at his. Neither has a job in the NFL. AP File Photo

The Seattle Seahawks, who lead the NFL in Zen, canceled an interview with free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick this week because he would not promise to stand for the national anthem.

He has no team. Neither does Eric Reid, the free agent safety, who is better at his job than Kaepernick is at his.

I’ve written about Reid before, but never in this context. So, a question:

How will the new owner of the Panthers react when he realizes a team that desperately requires a safety could have signed Reid?

Will the new owner say that he does not want anybody that kneels during the anthem on his roster (even though Reid has promised not to kneel this season)?

Or will he say that the Panthers made a mistake by not signing a good player for a reasonable amount of money. The market for free agent safeties is simmering. Reid ought to make about $9 million a year. But he might go for less.

And if you think he’s evil, one of the things Reid does when he stands is raise money to fight sickle cell anemia.

Do you know who the next Panthers’ owner will be? I know only who the owner is.

With the team's estimated worth being about $2.3 billion it is going to take some deep pockets to purchase the franchise. Here are some possible buyers.

Jerry Richardson played college and professional football, and he knows football, and he still owns the Panthers. He has said he will sell. But he doesn’t have to sell.

There are people in this world that you don’t tell what to do, and the harder you push, the more they resist. Richardson is one of them. He was awarded the team, not Charlotte. I assume he still exerts power. I can’t imagine any circumstances under which he’d sign Reid – unless he spent time with him.

A better way to write the sentence is that I can’t imagine him spending time with Reid.

I’m asked daily who the Panthers’ new owner will be, and I don’t lie. I have no idea. I could gamble and predict that it will be somebody who has achieved amazing monetary success in whatever field he has chosen. But that’s like saying that I saw an old guy at an Eagles’ concert. There’s no clarity.

I would love to say Felix Sabates and his group. Sabates said he’d need to build a new stadium, which would not be downtown (uptown if you insist). He talked about moving it to the burbs, covering it with a dome, adding a roof and charging for parking.

I suspect Sabates could be talked into leaving the team downtown and playing in a stadium that has held up like a 1957 Chevrolet. But his group apparently lacks the financing. There’s wealthy, and then there’s wealthier.

Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler recounts some of the historical highlights of the home stadium of the Carolina Panthers, including a Billy Graham crusade and the team's first home playoff game in 1996, in light of the team's impending sale.

Buying a team is like playing poker. At some point, the stakes become so high that the prudent option is to pull out. But if Sabates had bought the Panthers, I guarantee that his news conferences would be standing room only. And catered. I can even tell you the restaurant that would supply the catering.

A month from now, the Panthers might have a new owner. But nobody is going to tell Richardson to sell until he’s ready to.

This is his baby. He had input into every major decision the franchise ever made. He didn’t make the decisions, necessarily, although he made a few. But when a player was jettisoned, or hired or drafted, I assure you he was aware of it. No Carolina general manager or coach ever acted unilaterally. Thus the popular and accurate phrase, “It was a Panther decision.”

I’ve been in Richardson’s home enough times that I can describe the sound of his famous grandfather clock. If a player, coach or Panther official is in trouble, that clock is what he hears, even before he hears Richardson’s voice. If Hitchcock had made a thriller in Charlotte, that clock would play a role.

I haven’t talked to Richardson in more than a year. If we did, I’d ask him about several subjects, among them Eric Reid.

And I’d buy.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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The Carolina Panthers have the 24th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jourdan Rodrigue breaks down who the team might take with that pick.

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