Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson bragged of his influence over NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when he met with the Charlotte City Council in January seeking funding for renovation at Bank of America Stadium.
A fascinating article by Erik Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal uses transcripts from the closed-door meetings to craft his story. Richardson had success too, getting $87.5 million from the city for work on the stadium.
According to Spanberg, Richardson reminded the city council that he not only offered up the stadium for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, he also had the NFL’s kickoff game (between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants) moved from Thursday to Wednesday to ensure a larger television audience for the DNC show. According to the transcript, Richardson called in a favor from Goodell and reminded him that he was part of the committee that selected Goodell for his job. Richardson also implored Goodell not to poll other owners about the change.
You’ve got to wonder how the NFL views this story.
“I think it is worthwhile for you and I to reflect just a little bit on an example of us trying to go to bat for the city,” Richardson told council members in January, according to Spanberg. “You know I went to bat for you in the DNC, I think, as strongly as possible. And I think you will agree, too.
<p> “I have a good relationship with (the other) NFL owners, but we did a calculation and that would have cost every owner about $3 million to do that, including me. I try to get votes, that is one of the things that is real important in the NFL” — here one can only imagine the tears forming in council members’ eyes as they empathized with the task of collecting votes — “and that just wasn’t going to happen. So I called the (NFL) commissioner and said, ‘Just listen to me until I finish. Can you visualize Mount Everest and just moving it 100 feet to your left?’
“I said, ‘Do you have that visual?’ And he said, ‘I do and that is very difficult.’ And I said, ‘My request is very difficult.’ He said, ‘What is your request?’ I said, ‘I would like for you to move the opening game of the season (to Wednesday).’ I thought he was going to have a heart attack when I asked him the question. Then he said, ‘Well, you know, we’ll have to take this to the membership.’ And I said, ‘That is my second point. I would like for us not to take it to the membership … I was chairman of the committee that selected you as commissioner and I’m expecting you to take some leadership.’ ”
As we all know, the game was moved. It wasn’t a mountain, but it was a bold move and Richardson is taking full credit here.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune