The Carolina Panthers are a professional American football team based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers compete in the National Football League (NFL), as a member club of the league’s National Football Conference (NFC) South division. The club is worth approximately US $1.56 billion, according to Forbes, and is controlled by founder Jerry Richardson and his family, who have a 48 percent stake; the remainder of the team is held by a group of 14 limited partners. The team president is Danny Morrison, and the head coach is Ron Rivera.
The Panthers were announced as the league’s 29th franchise in 1993, and began play in 1995. The Panthers played well in their first two years, finishing 7–9 in 1995 (an all-time best for an NFL expansion team’s first season) and 12–4 the following year, winning the NFC West before ultimately losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. They did not have another winning season until 2003, when they won the NFC Championship Game and reached Super Bowl XXXVIII, losing 32–29 to the New England Patriots. After recording playoff appearances in 2005 and 2008, the team failed to record another playoff appearance until 2013, the first of three consecutive NFC South titles. After losing in the divisional round to the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 and the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, the Panthers finally returned to the Super Bowl in 2016, but lost to the Denver Broncos. The Panthers have reached the playoffs seven times, advancing to four NFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls. They have won six division titles, one in the NFC West and five in the NFC South.
On December 15, 1987, entrepreneur Jerry Richardson announced his bid for an NFL expansion franchise in the Carolinas. A North Carolina native, Richardson was a former wide receiver on the Baltimore Colts who had used his 1959 league championship bonus to co-found the Hardee’s restaurant chain, later becoming president and CEO of TW Services. Richardson drew his inspiration to pursue an NFL franchise from George Shinn, who had made a successful bid for an expansion National Basketball Association (NBA) team in Charlotte, the Charlotte Hornets. Richardson founded Richardson Sports, a partnership consisting of himself, his family, and a number of businessmen from North and South Carolina were also recruited to be limited partners. Richardson looked at four potential locations for a stadium, ultimately choosing uptown Charlotte. In choosing the team name, the Richardsons did not run focus groups with potential fans. Their intention had always been the ‘Panthers’; Jerry Richardson began driving a car with the license plate ‘PNTHRS’ near the end of 1989.
To highlight the demand for professional football in the Carolinas, Richardson Sports held preseason games around the area from 1989 to 1991. The first two games were held at Carter–Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, while the third and final game was held at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. The matchups were between existing NFL teams. In 1991, the group formally filed an application for the open expansion spot, and on October 26, 1993, the 28 NFL owners unanimously named the Carolina Panthers as the 29th member of the NFL.
Sir Purr is the mascot of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League. He is an anthropomorphized panther wearing a Panthers football jersey, No.00. On his page at the Panthers’ web site, he describes his favorites snacks as “birds like falcons and eagles and seahawks.” He has a running rivalry with Jaxson de Ville, the mascot of the Jacksonville Jaguars (the Panthers’ expansion brethren). Sir Purr also has family that occasionally joins him in games, such as Mini Meow, a younger version of Sir Purr. He caused a stir in a 1996 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers; on a Panthers punt, he jumped on the ball even though it was a live ball, turning the play into a touchback.