The mantra of the Carolina Panthers has always been “two states, one team.” Until now, anyway. In the aftermath of an aborted attempt to move its headquarters to Rock Hill, South Carolina, the decidedly North Carolina-based franchise has now completed its screw-over of the Palmetto State – announcing the pending relocation of its practice facilities from Spartanburg, S.C. to Charlotte, N.C.
For the past twenty-eight years, the Panthers have held their training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Beginning in 2024, however, the team will move its training camp to the Queen City.
“We’re excited to hold training camp at our facility in Charlotte,” a team executive announced in a news release last week. “We appreciate Wofford and the Spartanburg community for their hospitality over the years. We are dedicated to the fans in South Carolina, and we will continue to bring fan and community events to the state.”
Wait … dedicated to the fans of South Carolina?
Could have fooled us …
Panthers’ owner David Tepper – a liberal, billionaire hedge fund manager – agreed to move the team’s corporate headquarters (and practice facility) to Rock Hill in 2019, a deal hailed as the signature economic development of S.C. governor Henry McMaster. The agreement collapsed, however, and in 2022 Tepper’s holding company filed for bankruptcy in Delaware.
Our media outlet opposed that deal from the beginning.
“This is a bad deal. Period,” I wrote in March of 2019. “South Carolina should pass on the Panthers … and tell Tepper that while he is welcome to locate in the Palmetto State, he is not going to get paid to bring (his team) here.”
There is still an ongoing criminal investigation into this botched “economic development” debacle. As for the complex itself, it was demolished four-and-a-half months ago – leaving a vacant 245-acre lot and a bunch of angry local politicians and developers.
Speaking of angry politicians, Tepper’s latest move drew a sharp rebuke from South Carolina congressman William Timmons.
“The Panthers have spent their summers in Spartanburg since their inception in 1995 allowing children and sports fans alike to meet their favorite players,” Timmons wrote on X. “David Tepper has fumbled once again, this time alienating South Carolina from the ‘Carolina’ Panthers. So much for two states one team.”
RELATED | THE DAVID TEPPER DISASTER CONTINUES
Timmons is correct … Tepper has shredded any sense of loyalty South Carolina fans may have previously felt for this franchise. He’s also shredded the Panthers’ competitiveness as a franchise.
After Sunday’s embarrassing 28-6 defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, the Panthers are an abysmal 30-65 (.315) since Tepper took the reins of the franchise in 2018 – failing to post a winning record or reach the playoffs over that time. By contrast, during the five years prior to Tepper purchasing the team, the Panthers went 54-32-1 (.621) – reaching the playoffs four times and making it to Super Bowl 50.
Tepper shocked the professional football world in January by hiring former Indianapolis Colts’ coach Frank Reich to lead his team (thus initiating his second attempt at a franchise rebuild). Tepper’s controversial decision came despite the fact Panthers’ former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks posted an impressive 6-6 record as interim head coach following the firing of former head coach Matt Rhule on October 10, 2022.
Days after firing Rhule, Tepper offloaded star tailback Christian McCaffrey – who is currently leading the NFL in rushing with 1,177 yards for his new team, the San Francisco 49ers.
In addition to jettisoning McCaffrey, Tepper also decided to mortgage the Panthers’ future on this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Bryce Young – the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Alabama. This decision came despite reports suggesting Reich wanted to take Ohio State signal-caller C.J. Stroud with the top pick instead.
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How’d that decision pan out? Stroud is currently leading the NFL in passing, while Young is one of the lowest-rated passers in the league. His efficiency rating fell to 70.9 following the loss to the Saints, the second-worst mark among qualifying quarterbacks. The diminutive rookie also does not appear to be progressing under center, having been held under 200 passing yards in six consecutive games.
Despite firing Reich last month (after the shortest NFL head coaching stint since Jimmy Carter was in the White House), Tepper is squarely bearing the brunt of fan outrage for the franchise’s free fall – as he should be.
“You may have billions of dollars,” one fan wrote in an open letter to the owner on Carolina Huddle. “You may have succeeded into the stratosphere of the hedge fund industry. You may have every earthly possession you could ever want. But you don’t have what it takes to build a winning football team. You don’t have the respect of the Panthers fan base. In fact, you the full and disgusted disrespect of what is left of the fanbase after witnessing the rotted corpse of what used to be a somewhat enjoyable NFL team to follow.”
“I just moved back to North Carolina after living away for 13 years and I’m shocked at how few Panthers fans remain,” the fan continued. “You really have outdone yourself. You destroyed an albeit emotional yet proud fanbase. Please stop. Hire people more qualified than you to fix the disaster you have created. Sail off on your yacht to Monaco and enjoy an F1 race or something. Go to space. Do something billionaires are good at. Just stop ruining our football team.”
While fans are livid with Tepper for the collapse of the franchise off the field, the Panthers are paying dividends for the owner as an investment. After purchasing the team for $2.3 billion in 2018, the latest valuation of the franchise – conducted in August of this year – came in at $4.1 billion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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