The UNC Charlotte Student Government Association scrapped a controversial resolution that would have challenged the Board of Trustees decision to keep Jerry Richardson’s name on the football stadium and, instead, will conduct an investigation of student concerns.
The Stadium Inquiry Act calls for SGA to survey the student population on the issue and then, depending on the results, move forward with a message to the board.
Allegations of racial slurs and sexual misconduct surfaced against the former Carolina Panthers owner in December. Following an investigation by the NFL which resulted in a $2.75 million fine, UNC Charlotte officials announced in August the Board of Trustees had unanimously decided to honor the naming rights agreement.
Richardson is in an agreement with the university to pay annual increments of $1 million from 2013, when the team was established, until 2022. In return, the stadium reps his name.
At the last Senate meeting on Aug. 30, senators read a resolution which, if passed, would have publicly stated the organization was against the board’s decision. That bill was cut from the agenda. Instead, the Student Inquiry Act passed with a stipulation to change a word in the text from “petition” to “poll.” SGA will begin the process of surveying students, which Matthew Basel, the bill’s sponsor, said will not be an “overnight process.”
“This is a very neutral bill,” said Basel. “It’s not suggesting that we are condoning Jerry Richardson or anything like that. It’s simply stating that we want to look into it ourselves.”
The resolution reads of a “state of sensitivity” and provides examples of the protests against UNC Chapel Hill’s Silent Sam and a Duke University building named for Julian Carr, who was a white supremacist.
In a room filled with cameras and reporters, Niayai Lavien opened the Senate meeting with a statement regarding the board’s closed session in which they reached their consensus. As student body president, she serves as the sole student on the 13-member board.
“A variety of viewpoints were expressed in the meeting,” she said. “In the end, the Board of Trustees believe that it was in the best interest of the university, including the student body, to maintain the naming agreement.”
A school policy states if an individual for whom a facility is named engages in conduct injurious to the reputation of the university, the name may be removed without legal consequences; However, that policy, formed in 2016, predates the 2013 naming agreement with Richardson.
According to the Sports Illustrated report which revealed details of Richardson’s allegations, at least four former Panthers employees received financial settlements for their silence. It describes “Jean Day” on Fridays when Richardson would ask female employees to turn around so he could admire and make comments. He was also said to have used racial slurs against an African-American scout.
Following the allegations, Richardson announced plans to sell the team. David Tepper bought it in July for $2.275 billion.
The majority of Richardson’s fine will be donated to organizations that address race and gender-based issues.