June 10 (UPI) — The Carolina Panthers have removed the statue of former owner Jerry Richardson from outside of the team’s Bank of America Stadium “in the interest of public safety,” the franchise announced Wednesday.
The statue, which features Richardson holding a football between two panthers, was placed on a flatbed truck by a crane and covered by a tarp. According to the team, the statue was moved to an undisclosed site amid the social unrest in the United States.
There were rumblings on social media that the statue may be targeted as protests continued in Charlotte, N.C., after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed while in police custody on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.
“We were aware of the most recent conversation surrounding the Jerry Richardson statue and are concerned there may be attempts to take it down,” the team said in its statement. “We are moving the statue in the interest of public safety.”
Richardson sold the Panthers to David Tepper in 2018 amid allegations of racial and sexual misconduct that were first reported late in the 2017 season. The accusations led to an NFL investigation, which resulted in a $2.75 million fine.
The NFL’s investigation coincided with the sale of the Panthers to Tepper for an NFL-record $2.275 billion. There was a clause written into the sale of the franchise that said the statue of Richardson couldn’t be removed from its location outside the stadium.
The 13-foot statue was presented to Richardson in 2016 as a tribute to the team founder. He brought the NFL to the Carolinas in 1995.