Jerry Richardson, the man who brought the National Football League to the Carolinas, is putting his team up for sale at the end of the 2017 season, the team announced Sunday.
"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought an NFL franchise to Charlotte. The obstacles back then were significant, and some even questioned whether our community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance, The Carolinas would rise to the occasion," Richardson wrote in a letter published on the team's official web site.
"And you have. The team has become an integral part of our community. The stadium is in its best condition since the day it opened. And we have played in two Super Bowls.
"Football is also an integral part of my life -- and I am blessed, every day, that I made the Carolinas my home. I can never repay all of you for the kindness and generosity you have shown me, Rosalind, and my family for more than two decades. We have the best fans in football -- and I truly mean that. In my opinion, we also have the best organization, and they have served us well.
"I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership. Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of this NFL season. We will not begin the sale process, nor will we entertain any inquiries, until the very last game is played. I hope everyone in this organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on just one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl.
This development comes as the NFL takes over the investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct made against Richardson, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters that he was "a little surprised and just kind of taken back a little bit" by the news of Richardson's intention to sell the team.
"My relationship with him, I've been very fortunate," Rivera said. "Mr. Richardson, before the Panthers came to Carolina -- all I knew of Carolina was Fort Bragg and Camp Lejunne growing up in a military family as kid -- so I really didn't know a lot about it and he kind of helped put the Carolinas on the map by bringing the Panthers here."
"For me personally, having him mentor me through the opportunity of growing as a football coach I think has been tremendous. He has truly helped me and given me every opportunity. He was the first owner in about nine interviews to give me that chance so that's all I can speak of. I know the allegations are serious. I know that the league is going to do the investigation and everybody should be heard, should be listened to and respected. At the end of the day, who am I to judge? We need to have all the answers before we can do any of that. I just think that as we go forward as a football team I think it's important that we remember this that we are still here obviously to play football."