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NFL meetings open in Atlanta with approval of Panthers sale

NFL owners welcomed a new member to their ranks at the league’s spring meetings in Atlanta on Tuesday, voting unanimously to approve hedge-fund manager David Tepper as the owner of the Carolina Panthers. 

The meetings will continue Wednesday, with the issue of player protests during the national anthem expected to generate more discussion and two future Super Bowl sites expected to be ratified.

Tepper’s $2.275 billion purchase of the Panthers – a record price for an NFL team, but less than some had predicted – was the first order of business at the annual meetings, being held at a Buckhead hotel.  

» Jeff Schultz: Arthur Blank expects resolution on anthem protests

Jerry Richardson, the Panthers’ owner since the team joined the league in 1995, put the franchise up for sale in December amid allegations of workplace misconduct. 

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Minutes after being approved as owner, Tepper vowed to keep the Panthers in the Carolinas, saying: “What’s the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It’s going to be the Carolina Panthers.

“And there is a logical place for this team, and it’s Charlotte,” he continued. “And it is the Carolina Panthers. That means this team has to have some sort of presence in the Carolinas. ... How many (Carolinas) are there? That’s right; there’s two of them.”

That remark seemed to leave open a possibility of moving the team elsewhere in North Carolina or South Carolina, but Tepper said it’s too soon for him to take a position on whether the Panthers need a new stadium to replace their 22-year-old Charlotte home, Bank of America Stadium. 

“Charlotte is the logical place for a stadium,” Tepper said. “As far as a new stadium ... the only thing I have a market on right now is lack of knowledge. … I’ll learn a lot more in the future.” 

His deal to buy the team is scheduled to close in July. He will have to sell his small stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, which he has held for nine years, before then.

The Pennsylvania-born, Miami-based Tepper, 60, has a net worth estimated at $11 billion by Forbes.

Also Tuesday, the NFL owners discussed for about 90 minutes, without resolution, the issue of whether to develop a new rule regarding player protests during the national anthem before games. After much controversy the past two seasons about some players kneeling, the league continues to grapple with how to resolve the issue.

» More: Fans react to proposed protest penalty

In another matter at the meetings, the league expanded reviewable plays to include ejections of players and modified kickoff rules for one year. 

On Wednesday, the owners are scheduled to vote on awarding the 2023 and 2024 Super Bowls to Glendale, Ariz., and New Orleans, respectively. 

The NFL recently changed its longstanding method of awarding Super Bowls: Rather than weighing competing bids from multiple cities, the league now pre-selects one preferred location with which to negotiate terms for a given year’s game. Although an owners’ vote is still required, Glendale and New Orleans are the only sites on the table for 2023 and 2024.

A decision also is expected Wednesday on the site of next year’s NFL draft, with Nashville considered the favorite to land the event.

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