It wasn’t a completely empty house at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte for the Raiders-Panthers game on Sunday. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) has stood firm on his 50-person gathering limit at outdoor events. Cooper’s ‘Safer at Home’ phase 2.5 calls for 50% capacity at restaurants, bars & nightclubs remain closed, and the 50-person outdoor gathering rule.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have a season to play, and corporate sponsors spending big money to be associated with the team. So the Panthers fired up the pirate ship engine and had some of those sponsors watch Sunday’s game from field-level bunker suites. According to Athletic reporter Joe Person, the Panthers confirmed 45 corporate guests watched the game in the bunker suites along with team staff.
Charlotte TV reporter Will Kunkel tweeted a photo showing people in the new suites that were constructed before just before COVID struck the United States and were to fully open this season. The suites hold about a dozen people.
At least 50 people are in the south end zone bunker suite.
— Will Kunkel (@WillKunkelFOX46) September 13, 2020
Panthers fans hoping to catch a game in-person this season should be happy to see this out of their franchise. David Tepper — who has donated to Democratic and Republican campaigns and is definitely not a Trump guy — could’ve toed the Roy Cooper line and told the corporate sponsors it’s not the time to show defiance towards the Democratic governor, but at the end of the day, Tepper has a business to run. The solution: corporate sponsors in seats.
That doesn’t mean the Panthers owner isn’t trying to get the common man’s dollar, too. Tepper, who paid $2.2 billion for the team in 2018, has been open in the media about his displeasure with Cooper’s Phase 2.5 order.
“We started developing a plan in March based on science and we spent a lot of time on it,” Tepper said during a conference call in early September. “We have infectious disease experts in the plan, computer simulations, the whole bit, trying to be as safe as we can be. We do think we can do this. We don’t think we can do this as a whole stadium obviously, but we think we can do limited fans in the stadium very safely based on pure science.”
Now comes the showdown between the state of North Carolina and the Panthers billionaire owner over how to get fans in the stands. Tepper vs. Cooper seems to be heating up.