Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was one of the principal villains of the 2011 NFL lockout, melodramatic in his ridiculous demands for the owners to “take back our league” and either patronizing or insulting to those he was supposed to be negotiating with. While most of the other owners were content to sit back and let Roger Goodell issue ominous statements, Richardson was openly hostile with the players union, at one point questioning whether player reps like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees could read or knew anything about player safety.
Patronizing comments are ultimately excusable if the core of what Richardson had claimed was true, that the collective-bargaining agreement with the players had been making it impossible for teams to turn a profit. Most observers knew that to be bullsh*t, but no one could ever say for sure because NFL owners refused to turn over their books for public review.
At the time, Richardson claimed team owners were operating at a loss. Yet, thanks to leaked documents obtained by Deadspin, that statement seems even more suspicious now that we know that during the two years leading up to and following the lockout, the small-market Panthers turned a considerable profit.
The statement is for the years ending March 31, 2011, and March 31, 2012. Over the first period, as Richardson argued that the NFL’s business model was hopelessly broken and steered the owners toward a showdown to extract more money from the players, the Panthers recorded an operating profit of $78.7 million. The team had gone 2-14 on the field, but Richardson and his partners were able to pay themselves $12 million.
Over the following year, after the owners had won their lockout and reduced the players’ share of league revenue from 50 percent to 47 percent, the Panthers brought in $33.3 million in operating profit. Richardson began lobbying for public subsidies to renovate his 17-year-old stadium. The team went 6-10.
If it seems curious why the profits dipped after the lockout resolution that gave the owners a larger share of league-wide revenue, it’s because the Panthers finally started paying more for on-field talent. That, however, didn’t stop the team from demanding public funds to cover renovations of its stadium.
The Panthers issued a statement in response claiming the documents that Deadspin obtained only represent a snapshot of the franchise’s overall finances, but the public will never get a complete picture, if there even is one beyond what is seen here. So, until we see evidence to the contrary, Jerry Richardson is an old, lying sack of sh*t.