The NFL announced Monday that it has fined Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper $300,000 for throwing a drink at opposing fans during the team’s Week 17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The fine comes after video surfaced showing Tepper appearing to throw a drink from his luxury box onto fans seated below.
Background of the Incident
Tensions were high heading into the Panthers-Jaguars matchup on New Year’s Day. Carolina entered the game 6-9, guaranteeing a fourth straight losing season under Tepper’s ownership. As the Panthers struggled through yet another disappointing year, fan frustration mounted towards the team’s billionaire owner.
That frustration reached a boiling point during Carolina’s 26-0 blowout loss to Jacksonville. With his team down 20-0 late in the second quarter, video emerged of Tepper standing up in his luxury box and seeming to deliberately throw a drink onto fans seated below.
The fans targeted appeared to be Jaguars supporters based on their teal jerseys. Tepper, who bought the Panthers in 2018 for nearly $2.3 billion, quickly drew outrage on social media for his petulant act.
|Jaguars 20, Panthers 0
|Tepper throws drink at fans
NFL Investigation and Fine
The league immediately launched an investigation into Tepper’s actions upon the video surfacing online. On Monday, the NFL announced it has fined the Panthers owner $300,000 as a result of its probe.
In a statement, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said: “The NFL immediately began investigating the incident upon learning of it. After reviewing all available video and speaking to individuals involved, we have determined that Mr. Tepper’s conduct was unacceptable and contrary to league policy.”
The $300K fine represents the maximum amount the NFL can levy against an owner for conduct detrimental to the league under the NFL Constitution and Bylaws. Tepper also issued his own statement apologizing for the incident, although claiming he threw the drink accidentally.
Reactions Around the League
Tepper’s fine prompted varied reactions around the league. Some felt the penalty was far too light considering Tepper’s status as a multi-billionaire. Others argued it was unfair for the league to punish an owner so harshly for what amounted to a momentary lapse in judgement.
Panthers players have remained mostly silent regarding their owner’s actions. But several former Carolina stars like Steve Smith Sr. and Thomas Davis criticized Tepper for further embarrassing a franchise already stuck in mediocrity.
The drink-throwing incident and subsequent fallout leaves Tepper and the Panthers organization facing even more uncertainty heading into a crucial 2024 offseason.
What Happens Next for Tepper and the Panthers?
For Tepper, the $300K fine itself likely represents little more than a minor nuisance. But the public relations hit of his viral drink toss could be far more damaging.
Tepper has already worn out most goodwill with Carolina fans after presiding over four straight losing seasons. This latest misstep will only increase calls for the hedge fund billionaire to sell the Panthers and move on.
As for the team itself, attention shifts to finding a new head coach and potential franchise quarterback this offseason. Tepper’s involvement in those critical decisions, and his long-term future as owner, has now become an open question.
With the Panthers holding the #9 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, Tepper’s drink debacle couldn’t have come at a worse time. The franchise again finds itself at a crossroads, only now with even more uncertainty who will lead them into the future.
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