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New Panthers owner under contract to keep statue of Jerry Richardson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NewPanthersowner David Tepper said he'll accept nothing less than an "open and safe" work environment, but he's "contractually obligated" to keep a 13-foot-high statue of former owner and team founder Jerry Richardson outside of the team's stadium.

Tepper, who was introduced as the Panthers' new owner Tuesday, said keeping the statue in place was part of the deal when he purchased the team.

Tepper said there will be "no impediment" in employees feeling comfortable in taking any concerns up the ladder on the business side of the organization, and that he wants to create an environment where "everybody feels safe like a family."

Richardson announced in December that he intended the sell the team, following reports of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. The NFL substantiated the claims against Richardsonafter a six-month investigation and fined him $2.75 million.

"Listen, whatever was, was. This is now," Tepper said Tuesday. "This is going to be an open place. So there are not going to be non-disclosure agreements no matter what in this new place. That was then, this is now."

Built in 2016, the statue features Richardson holding a football next to two growling Panthers.

Fans have expressed their desire on social media and sports talk shows to remove the statue, which was built in 2016.

Tepper reiterated that Charlotte is the "logical place" for the Panthers, though he said new practice facilities are a priority.

He is considering moving the team's practice facilities to South Carolina, in part to keep both states interested in the team. The Panthers currently practices on three fields within walking distance to their downtown stadium. Tepper said that valuable land could be then used for developmental purposes.

Tepper plans to hire a new team president to replace Danny Morrison, who left last year, and recent COO Tina Becker, who resigned Monday after seven months in the position. He said he has two candidates in mind with some marketing background.

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