Jerry Richardson
refer to caption
Richardson on the Carolina Panther's training camp in August 2009.
No. 87
Personal information
Born:(1936-07-18)July 18, 1936
Spring Hope, North Carolina, U.S.
Died:March 1, 2023(2023-03-01) (aged 86)
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Career information
High school:Terry Sanford (Fayetteville, North Carolina)
NFL Draft:1958 / Round: 13 / Pick: 154
Career history
As a player:
As an executive:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:22
Receiving yards:171
Total touchdowns:4
Player stats at · PFR

Jerome Johnson Richardson Sr. (July 18, 1936 – March 1, 2023) was an American businessman, football player, and owner in the National Football League (NFL). A native of Spring Hope, North Carolina, he played college football at Wofford and was twice a Little All-America selection. After graduating from there, he played two seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts. Richardson later became a businessman, operating a Hardee's location, founding Spartan Foods, and serving as the CEO at Flagstar. He began the Carolina Panthers, and served as its owner from its first season in 1995 until selling the franchise in 2018.

Early life and college

Richardson was born in Spring Hope, North Carolina.[1] After graduating from Sanford High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he went to Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.[1] Richardson was an Associated Press Little All-American selection in 1957 and 1958.[2] He still holds Wofford's single-game record with 241 receiving yards vs. Newberry in 1956 and is the record holder for touchdown receptions in a season (9 in 1958) and in a career (21).[2] As a senior at Wofford, he scored 72 points on nine touchdowns, 12 extra points and two field goals.[2] Richardson calls being elected team captain in 1958 his greatest honor.[2] In 1983, he was chosen to Wofford's All-Time Football team as a receiver.[2]

Richardson was active in numerous groups on the Wofford campus; he was a member of Kappa Alpha Order fraternity, President of the Inter-Fraternity Council, and member of the SCA Cabinet. Honors he received while at Wofford included Distinguished Military Student, Scabbard and Blade Military Fraternity, Sigma Delta Psi, Blue Key National Honorary Fraternity, and recognition in Who's Who in American Universities and Colleges.[3]

Professional football

Drafted in the 13th round by the defending world champion Baltimore Colts, Richardson played two seasons in the NFL, earning Colt Rookie of the Year honors in 1959. He caught a touchdown pass in the 1959 NFL Championship Game from quarterback Johnny Unitas. He was traded from the Colts to the New York Giants for John Guzik on August 3, 1961.[4]


After his NFL career, Richardson used his 1959 NFL championship bonus with the help of friend and former Wofford quarterback Charles Bradshaw to open the first Hardee's franchise in Spartanburg. The two ended up owning the Hardee's business 50/50. The business expanded rapidly under his hands-on management style. From his headquarters in Spartanburg, he co-founded Spartan Foods, which was the first franchisee of Hardee's. He later was the CEO of Flagstar, which was the sixth largest food service company in the United States, controlling 2,500 restaurants and providing jobs for 100,000 employees. He retired in 1995.[5]

Carolina Panthers

Richardson with Jake Delhomme at the Panther's training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg in August 2009.
Richardson with Jake Delhomme at the Panther's training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg in August 2009.

On October 26, 1993, Richardson became the first former NFL player since George Halas to become an owner when the Carolina Panthers were unanimously awarded the NFL's 29th franchise.[6] The Panthers have represented not only Charlotte and North Carolina, but the surrounding region; the area has benefited from the franchise's success.[7][8]

Richardson was regarded as one of the most powerful NFL owners, alongside Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, respectively.[8] Richardson played a role in locking out the NFL players in 2011 and in negotiating a new players agreement.[9]

For the most part Richardson stayed in the background and rarely interfered in the Panthers' day-to-day operations. For instance, when he fired George Seifert after the 2001 season (in which the Panthers went 1-15), he went nine years before holding another press conference at which he took questions from the media—when he announced that John Fox's contract would not be renewed.[10]

One of the few times in which he directly intervened in football matters came in the 2014–15 offseason, when he refused to re-sign player Greg Hardy in the wake of domestic violence events involving Hardy. Richardson said that he made the decision not to do so because "we do the right things."[11]

It had long been presumed that Richardson intended to have his sons, Mark and Jon, inherit the team. However both abruptly resigned before the 2009 season, reportedly at the behest of Richardson[12] and Jon Richardson died of cancer in 2013.[13] On January 16, 2013, WBTV in Charlotte reported that Jerry Richardson wanted the team to be sold after he dies, but presumably only to someone who would keep the team and jobs in Charlotte.[14]

In the 2015 season, Richardson's Panthers reached Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016, after losing only one game all season. The Panthers fell to the Denver Broncos with a score of 24–10.[15] At the company's expense, the Panthers transported and housed a majority of their employees at the Super Bowl.

As Panthers majority owner, Richardson was said to be a "champion of diversity", with African-American Cam Newton as starting quarterback and Hispanic Ron Rivera as head coach.[16]

Controversy and sale

On December 17, 2017, Sports Illustrated reported, based on anonymous sources who were reneging on signed settlement agreements, that "at least four former Panthers employees have received ‘significant’ monetary settlements due to inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by owner Jerry Richardson, including sexually suggestive language and behavior, and on at least one occasion directing a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout.[8][17]

On the same day, it was announced that Richardson intended to sell the Panthers franchise at the conclusion of the 2017 season. After great interest from the market, in May 2018 Richardson finalized a sale to billionaire and then Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner David Tepper for an NFL record sales price of $2.2 billion. The deal was approved by NFL owners on May 22, 2018. On June 28, 2018, Richardson was fined $2.75 million for the alleged workplace misconduct.[18]

A 13-foot (4.0 m) statue of Richardson holding a football and flanked by two panthers was unveiled at Bank of America Stadium in 2016; it was a gift from the Panthers LLC minority partners to Richardson for his 80th birthday.[7][8] On June 10, 2020, the statue was removed.[16]

Personal life

Jerry Richardson Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Jerry Richardson Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Richardson was hospitalized in Charlotte at Carolinas Medical Center in early December 2008, one month after receiving a pacemaker. He had a history of heart trouble and had undergone quadruple bypass surgery in 2002.[19] Two days later he was placed on a donor waiting list for a new heart two days. He received a new heart on February 1, 2009, and fully recovered from the transplant operation.[20]

Richardson and businessman Hugh McColl purchased the naming rights to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's football field in 2011.[21] The stadium was named Jerry Richardson Stadium in 2013 after an additional $10 million donation.[22]

In 2000, Richardson was elected into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. In 2006 and 2015, he was elected to the South Carolina Business and Sports Halls of Fame, respectively.[23][24] In 2016 he funded the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts, in honor of his wife of over sixty years, on the Wofford College campus. In 2017, he funded Wofford's state-of-the-art Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.[25]

In 2021, he donated $150 million to Wofford College. It is the largest gift in Wofford's history. The gift is designated for the college's endowment with a focus on need-based financial scholarships and experiences for Wofford students. His gifts to Wofford to date including capital improvements, exceed $260 million. According to Richardson, Wofford has been the greatest influence in success in his life, with no other influence "even close".[26][27]

Richardson died at his Charlotte home on March 1, 2023, at the age of 86.[28][29]


  1. ^ a b "Jerry Richardson Stats".
  2. ^ a b c d e "Jerry Richardson - Hall of Fame". Wofford College.
  3. ^ "Wofford honors Jerry Richardson". Archived from the original on October 3, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  4. ^ Prevatte, Ernie. "Richardson 'Tickled' Over Trade," The Spartanburg (SC) Herald, Saturday, August 5, 1961. Retrieved February 22, 2023.
  5. ^ Jerry Richardson. Retrieved on April 19, 2012.
  6. ^ Hoffer, Richard (October 28, 1991). "The Franchise". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on December 27, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Tepper's honeymoon phase: Stadium, soccer, statue".
  8. ^ a b c d "Exclusive: New details on allegations against Panthers owner Jerry Richardson".
  9. ^ Jerry Richardson Tribute. Retrieved on April 19, 2012.
  10. ^ Fowler, Scott (2013). 100 Things Panthers Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die. Triumph Books. ISBN 9781600788246.
  11. ^ Newton, David (March 23, 2015). "Owner says he let Greg Hardy leave". ESPN.
  12. ^ "Former Carolina Panthers exec Jon Richardson dies".
  13. ^ Reed, Steve (August 9, 2013). "Bears defense shines in 24-17 loss to Panthers". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  14. ^ Source: Richardson mandates Panthers be sold after death. WBTV, January 16, 2013
  15. ^ "Super Bowl 50 - Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers - February 7th, 2016". Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  16. ^ a b Farrar, Doug (June 10, 2020). "Here's why it's the right move for the Panthers to remove statue of former owner Jerry Richardson". USA Today.
  17. ^ Wertheim, L. Jon; Bernstein, Viv. "Sources: Jerry Richardson, Panthers Have Made Multiple Confidential Payouts for Workplace Misconduct, Including Sexual Harassment and Use of a Racial Slur". Sports Illustrated. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  18. ^ "NFL fines Jerry Richardson $2.75M after investigation". NFL. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  19. ^ Mike Cranston "Panthers owner Richardson needs heart transplant". Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Associated Press
  20. ^ Richardson recovering from transplant ESPN, February 2, 2009
  21. ^ Spanberg, Erik (November 1, 2011). "UNC Charlotte to name football field for Hugh McColl, Jerry Richardson". Charlotte Business Journal.
  22. ^ Dyches, Chris (June 11, 2013). "Charlotte 49ers Name Stadium After Panthers Owner". Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  23. ^ "Two tapped for S.C. Hall of Fame". The State. February 5, 206. p. 58, 60 – via open access
  24. ^ Valade, Jodie (March 3, 2023). "A controversial history: Timeline of Jerry Richardson's life, career and team ownership". The Charlotte Observer.
  25. ^ "Wofford hosts topping out for new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium". Upstate Business Journal. September 27, 2016.
  26. ^ "Richardson gives record $150 million to Wofford College Endowment". Wofford College (Press release). Spartanburg, South Carolina. February 24, 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  27. ^ Jaschik, Scott (February 25, 2021). "Wofford Receives $150 Million Gift". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  28. ^ "Panthers founder Jerry Richardson passes away at 86". Carolina Panthers. March 2, 2023. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  29. ^ "Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson dies at 86". WCBD News 2. March 2, 2023. Retrieved March 2, 2023.