Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Carolina on their minds

26th December 2017   ·   0 Comments

This Christmas, Bad Boy Entertainment founder and Howard University alum Sean “P. Diddy” Combs is dreaming of a little bit more than a white Christmas, more ice for his wrist or even the signing of the next Notorious B.I.G.

He wants to become the next owner of the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers, a franchise that was formally placed on the auction block after its current owner, Jerry Richardson, decided it was time to walk away from the team after being accused of making racist and sexist remarks to former Panther employees.

Hoping to join Combs in his ownership of the Panthers is Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, who recently refused to visit the White House after President Donald Trump made disparaging remarks about Black athletes, and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who grabbed national and international headlines last season when he refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem to protest police killings of unarmed Black and Brown people.

A recent report by Sports Illustrated said that the Carolina Panthers reached a monetary settlement with at least four of its former employees after alleged sexist and racist remarks and conduct by owner Jerry Richardson, who is 81 years old.

The report alleges that Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to several women and directed a racial slur toward one of the team’s African-American scouts. The settlements reportedly came with a non-disclosure agreement that prevents the involved parties from speaking about the incidents or the settlement.

At press time, the Panthers were tied for first place with the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South division with a 10-4 with two games remaining in the regular season.

While the franchise and its owner have not yet won a Super Bowl, it has been in the hunt in recent years and shows great promise with quarterback Cam Newton running the show.

Newton, whose father is reportedly an Atlanta pastor, told The Associated Press that while he had not yet read the report, Richardson had played a “father-like role” in his life.

“For me I hope things don’t alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson,” Newton said. “But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of.”

The Panther franchise founder took very little time before announcing Dec, 17 that he ready to sell the team.

“I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership,” Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn’t begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, are in playoff position again.

“I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl,” Richardson said.

Less than an hour after Jerry Richardson announced his plans to sell the team he founded in 1995, P. Diddy took to social media to pitch his master plan of buying the franchise and signing blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick to an NFL contract.

We should all keep in mind that wanting to buy a team and buying a team are two entirely different things. And this is, after all, the same P. Diddy who said previously that he wanted to buy the entire National Football League.

“I did have a dream to own a NFL team but now my dream is to own our own league!” Combs said prior to learning of Richardson’s plan to sell the Carolina Panthers.

“A league where you can be yourself. Have a retirement plan,” Combs continued.

“Have freedom to be a great human and protest for your people without being demonized for your beliefs as a KING!”

Buying the Carolina Panthers or any professional team would require Combs to step his game up by forging new business relationships with some industry titans who buy into his plans for the team, harnessing his economic power and getting the powers that be in the NFL to agree that this might be a good way to mend fences with African-American athletes.

One would hope that Combs would align himself with businessmen and businesswomen of color with the vision, integrity, sense of purpose and business acumen of industry leaders like Black Enterprise founder Earl Graves, Washington, DC billionaire Don Peebles, former Malcolm X attorney and Apollo Theater owner Percy Sutton and economic empowerment guru Leon Sullivan.

The last thing anyone in Black or Brown America needs to see is someone who looks like us squander a great opportunity to forge ahead with a new venture that promises to inspire and empower communities of color.

In the meantime, in the midst of what some call the season of hope, we can always dream.

Could you even imagine an America in which the National Football League has a Black-owned franchise with a mascot named the Panthers? Let that marinate in your mind for a minute.

And think about how on the Super Bowl’s 50th anniversary the Carolina Panthers came close to winning the Lombardi Trophy in Oakland, California, where 50 years ago brothers like Louisiana-born Huey P, Newton (No relation to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton) and Bobby Seale launched the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Perhaps Combs could help to do away with the “$60 million slave” mindset that prompts some professional athletes to think very little about the world in which they live, become dependent on team owners and coaches for everything they need, refuse to act responsibility and never understand the importance of using their platforms as celebrities and professional athletes to effect positive change in the world.

A lot of that is already beginning to happen, thanks to Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes who are not afraid to speak out against social injustice, bigotry, and oppression.

Maybe Combs and future Black NFL owners could bring about a league where someone like former Florida State University standout and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle might not have had to choose between playing in the NFL and becoming a medical doctor.

You might recall that Rolle was blackballed by NFL team owners, coaches and scouts who said the talented athlete had “too many options” to risk a draft pick on him. Apparently, the NFL likes its athletes dependent, desperate and eager to please the shot-callers who pluck them up after the NFL Scouting Combine, which looks like a fancy auction block.

Just so you know, Myron Rolle, who was eventually drafted in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans, is now a neurosurgery resident at Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital. Perhaps it will be him who helps to bring an end to all of the concussions and brain issues plaguing NFL athletes.

As long as Sean Combs surrounds himself with a superstar team of business leaders who know the ins and out of commerce and understand how the sports world operates, I’m all in.

Just don’t blow it, P. Diddy. The world and our Beloved Ancestors are watching.

And as an aside, it is interesting to note that, it was in Charlotte, Caroline during their matchup with the Panthers that the New Orleans Saints decided to “take a knee” in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. Ten Saints players refused to stand during the national anthem and four others stood near them in solidarity, one of the largest demonstrations of NFL players this season.

The Sept. 28 protest represents the only time in the Saints’ 50-year history that anyone on the team has refused to stand for the national anthem.

While the Saints players have moved on and now use social media and other outlets to voice their disapproval of bigotry, police brutality and racial injustice, some of their fans continue to hang on to the resentment and anger they felt on that fall afternoon when their sports heroes decided to stand up for what they believe in.

This article originally published in the December 25, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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