After shaking down the City of Charlotte for $87.5 million to help fund upgrades at Bank of American Stadium, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has forked over $10 million to apply his name to another football venue.
And some folks in Charlotte understandably are miffed.
Richardon’s donation to UNC Charlotte will result in the Charlotte 49ers playing in Jerry Richardson Stadium.
“Nobody asked us to do this,” Richardson said, via the Charlotte Observer. “Charlotte is our home [and] I think athletics plays a key role in any university or college experience.
“In fact, I don’t do well when people ask me for money. I’d rather give it because I want to give it.”
The irony in that last part is obvious to anyone in Charlotte who thinks Richardson should be paying for upgrades to the football stadium he owns. The man who doesn’t like to be asked for money asked aggressively and repeatedly for taxpayer funds. Though he didn’t get everything he wanted, Richardson came away with $8.75 for every $1 he donated to get his name on the local college’s stadium.
But Richardson most likely won’t be changing the name of the place to the Charlotte Taxpayers Stadium.
On one hand, we understand the distinction. Richardson got public money to help fund the upgrades because that’s part of the reality of NFL stadium economics. Having a team in town benefits the city financially; at some point, the city should acknowledge that with a financial contribution. Whether the owner of the team can afford to provide the money he’s seeking is irrelevant to whether the taxpayers should bear part of the total burden.
On the other hand, it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite jokes, as told by David Letterman in the 1980s when his NBC after-Carson show spent a week in Las Vegas. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one — or better yet just scroll to the next story.)
Letterman said during a monologue that he was approached on the street by a man who asked for cash because his wife needs an operation. Said Letterman to the man, “How do I know you’re not going to use this money for gambling?”
The man responded, “Oh, I’ve got gambling money.”