Shaq Thompson’s campaign to get turf back into Bank of America Stadium is something the Carolina Panthers should consider in 2022.
Switching to artificial grass was a controversial move by the Carolina Panthers. One that was done for no reason other than to line the pockets of billionaire owner David Tepper.
For years, the Panthers benefitted from a turf surface that is obviously more expensive to keep pristine. But those in power felt like an artificial playing pitch could enable minimal complications and also allow the stadium to host major events and concerts to bolster their bottom line.
There is also the presence of Charlotte FC to factor into the equation. Even if the risk of injury is higher and the move wasn’t exactly well received by fans when the announcement was confirmed.
This is an opinion shared by one high-ranking player, too.
Shaq Thompson took to social media this week, voicing his displeasure about the artificial turf and calling for the Panthers to get back to their original turf at the earliest possible opportunity.
The timing was impeccable, with Bank of America Stadium installing such a surface for the visit of former English Premier League and European Champions League winners Chelsea to Charlotte for a fixture as part of their preseason tour.
Knowing how highly Chelsea and other soccer teams in England value grass pitches, this was probably a stipulation included as part of the friendly arrangement. Something Tepper was willing to do given how much a game like this would boost the profile of his expansion team.
So why not do the same for his more established NFL organization?
It’s unlikely Thompson is alone regarding this opinion within the locker room. He’s just in a position to voice his opinion without fear of any repercussions.
There are still employees at the end of the day. Tepper likes to be seen as a billionaire who’s one of the guys, but the novelty has quickly worn off and the chances of reverting back after just one season are remote all things considered.
Carolina’s head coach Matt Rhule has looked to become more player-orientated this offseason and Thompson has been at the forefront. He is one of the last remaining players from the 2015 Super Bowl team and emerged as a prominent leader that others look to for inspiration.
Thompson is right and the large majority of fans would agree. Whether Tepper has a willing ear to listen is another matter entirely.
Besides, it’s not like the Panthers thrived playing on an artificial surface last season.
Yes, the upkeep is greater with grass. But how much should that matter to a man with a net worth of $16.7 billion?
Another poor campaign for the Panthers in 2022 will turn the heat up significantly on Tepper. A man who promised much but has delivered very little so far.
To say it’s been a turbulent offseason for Tepper would be an understatement. Many trusted lieutenants have left his Sports and Entertainment company, with the debacle surrounding the Panthers headquarters in Rock Hill becoming a microcosm of how things have gone since he purchased the franchise from Jerry Richardson.
One can get opinions from almost anyone on this topic. However, listening to those who take the gridiron and give their absolute all should be priority No. 1.
With training camp fast approaching, these tweets will soon be at the back of everyone’s mind. Even if Thompson had more than a few valid points.
And who knows, it might make a difference to performance levels along the way.