Last night, Panthers owner and known curmudgeon Jerry Richardson appeared as a guest on PBS’s Charlie Rose. ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio highlighted some of the discussion:
Richardson, who said that Newton “was dressed perfectly” for their meeting, was blunt. “I said, ‘Do you have any tattoos?’” Richardson told Rose. “He said, ‘No, sir. I don’t have any.’ I said, ‘Do you have any piercings?’ He said, ‘No, sir. I don’t have any.’ I said, ‘We want to keep it that way.’ . . . .
“We want to keep no tattoos, no piercings, and I think you’ve got a very nice haircut.”
Interjected the host: “You sound like a Lombardi.”
Said Richardson, “No, I just sound reasonable to me.”
At first glance, this sounded very old fashioned and out of touch to me. From following the NFL Lockout a little bit (OK, a lot bit) too closely, I developed a loathing for Richardson. To the extent that you can hate a public figure who you do not actually know, I hated Jerry Richardson this offseason. In the CBA negotiations, Richardson, who made a fortune in the fast food industry, took the hardest line. At one point, he insulted Peyton Manning and Drew Brees: “[Richardson] was extremely condescending to them, especially toward Peyton,” a source told Yahoo!’s Jason Cole. “[Richardson] was the only person on either side who was contentious. Everybody else was respectful. They might have said, ‘I disagree with your point,’ but at least they were respectful. [Richardson] was not.”
In February, Yahoo!’s Mike Silver, called for Richardson to be removed from negotiations because he was so disruptive and abrasive. Silver noted that is curious that Richardson, who has amassed a fortune few of us could ever dream of and received a second chance at life after a heart transplant, would be so miserable:
What I can’t understand is why a man who should be so happy to be among us would resist the compulsion to behave like Jimmy Stewart at the climax of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and instead act like the salty neighbor who screams at kids for allowing their football to bounce upon his lawn.
It was therefore with prior bias that I was initially dismissive of Richardson’s comments about Newton, thinking that this was just another case of Richardson being a dick. I then thought about it more and realized that Richardson was about to make Newton the face of his organization and as such wanted Newton to have the best face possible.
I personally do not have any tattoos but do not really have an issue with them as long as they aren’t absurd like the pair of lips on Kenyon Martin’s neck. That I don’t have any issue with tattoos may be purely generational, though. My brother, sister, and I have been told by our usually socially liberal father that we would be out of the will if we ever got a tattoo. While I’m 95% sure that is an idle threat and that he was referring to tattoos like Martin’s as opposed to ones that are meaningful and inconspicuous, I don’t think I’d risk it even if I did want a tattoo. His former boss used to say that he “roots for the team with the least tattoos” in basketball.
However, it is not just older white men that have an issue with tattoos. During the 2008 NBA Playoffs, FoxSports’s Jason Whitlock wrote (original link no longer available) that there was one major reason why ratings were up:
Tattoos. Or rather the lack of tattoos in the conference finals.
Part of the reason more people are watching these playoffs is because the average fan isn’t constantly repulsed by the appearance of most of the players on the court. Most of the key players left in the playoffs don’t look like recent prison parolees.
The only accurate way to describe Garnett, Pierce, Duncan, Allen, Manu, Parker and even Kobe is “clean cut.” Yeah, there are a couple of tattoos in that group — Duncan has something on his back, Kobe still has his post-rape-allegation tat — but the Lakers, Spurs and Celtics have far less ink on average than your typical NBA franchise.
Football is a little bit different than basketball because the players wear pads and helmets instead of shorts and tank tops but it is at least a little understandable that Richardson would prefer Newton to be well-kept and marketable to the establishment. That he lacked tact in expressing this opinion is unsurprising. I’m sure that Richardson would also prefer that Newton plays quarterback for the Panthers as cleanly as he looks.