Football fans and city leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina are panicking tonight. The reason? They’re afraid the city could lose its NFL franchise, the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers’ disgraced current owner, Jerry Richardson, is caught up in a shocking sexual harassment scandal so he decided to outright sell the team.
So far, the person who seems most interested is rap mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, who has reportedly started putting together a prospective ownership group that may include former 49ers quarterback and modern civil rights figure Colin Kaepernick.
The NBA’s Steph Curry has also said he wants in.
Combs is looking to become the first African-American majority owner of an NFL franchise.
But Charlotte residents fear that Diddy–or anyone else who could eventually purchase the team–would relocate it to another city. The contract the Panthers have with the City of Charlotte ends after this season, meaning the team could move.
And while Charlotte is a fast-growing city that is the center of banking in the Southeast, its feasible the team could leave: even Los Angeles–the second biggest city in the country– lost both of its franchises between the 1980s and 1990s. The NFL returned to the city in 2017.
But the NFL charges relocation fees to approve a relocation, and those fees ain’t cheap: assessed fees could exceed $500 million. Which is another big reason the team is highly unlikely to go anywhere.
Diddy has not said he would move the franchise if he buys it. He also hasn’t said he wouldn’t move it either. But it’s not even clear what other city would be a viable destination even if a move were to become part of post-sale negotiations, so the team is likely to stay put regardless of who buys it.
Even so, Charlotte’s Mayor and City Council ain’t taking no chances: they pledged to do what they have to do to keep the team in town–and make the new owners, whomever they may be, happy.
“The Panthers are part of Charlotte’s fabric. We’ve celebrated victories and anguished over defeats”, Mayor-elect Vi Lyles said. “We understand transitions are inevitable, and we look forward to working with current and future ownership.”