THE ASHNOCA

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Panthers For Sale

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The National Football League has endured its fair share of drama over the past years, and not solely between the lines. Whether it is the alarming new studies that display the high likelihood of players developing CTE, a brain disease linked to concussions, or the increasing number of sexually violent crimes committed by all levels of the league’s establishment. Perhaps the most significant issue for the National Football League pertains to the league’s racial tension highlighted by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. When Kaepernick chose to kneel down for the Star Spangled Banner on August 26th, 2016, he ignited a conversation about the league’s, and the United States of America’s, stance on systemic racial issues. Though the protest began as a cry against police brutality, it soon spiraled into a nation-wide discussion about race. With all of these controversies, it is easy to see why the National Football League’s ratings have drastically dropped over the past few years, primarily among black viewers.

Recently another scandal has scarred the NFL, and this one hits close to home. The Carolina Panthers, located in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, have been the focus of the sports world’s attention for recent months, after its inaugural owner, Jerry Richardson, decided to place the team up for sale. Mr. Richardson chose to place the team up for bidding after recent allegations of his sexual misconduct towards female employees in the workplace came to light. While these past months have been difficult for die-hard fans everywhere, I believe that the NFL and the city of Charlotte possess a unique opportunity to turn a very ugly situation into something positive.

The current makeup of the NFL shows a clear divide between those who own the teams and those who put their lives on the line every game day. Seventy percent of the league’s players are African American, but ninety-four percent of the team owners, as well as the league commissioner Roger Goodell, are white. This disparity of race among the different levels of the NFL, with white men holding a tight grip on the more prestigious positions, serves as a microcosm of our country’s problem of systemic racism. With a thick glass ceiling, the top levels of the NFL seem to be unevolved from the days of segregation.

Returning to Carolina, the NFL has a chance to kick-start a revolution in my hometown. Now I am not saying that the NFL should sell the team to a minority owner solely to enhance their PR. This would result in even more issues if the NFL were to parade around their new minority owner with a constant pat on the back of a job well done. Instead, I am more interested in the selling process rather than the final sale. Personally, I believe that all candidates, regardless of race or any other characteristic, should be given an equal opportunity to buy the team, and with a few majority black ownership groups already expressing interest in purchasing the team, it would be difficult for me to believe that there aren’t any qualified minority candidates. However, as this situation resolves itself, I hope that the selling of this team serves as a launching pad for the discussion of more diversity across all levels of the NFL. While the NFL has a multitude of issues to deal with in this offseason and beyond, they can start by addressing the problem of systemic racism in their league in Carolina.

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