Some very sad news out of Charlotte this afternoon. Jon Richardson, the son of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, has passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 53.
I have very fond memories of Jon Richardson from my days covering the Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. Back in those days, Richardson and his brother, Mark, served as presidents for the Panthers. Jon was in charge of the stadium, while Mark oversaw the business and football sides.
Much like his father, Jon Richardson was a man of the people. He didn’t flaunt his wealth or status and was well respected by the team’s employees. I had nothing but positive dealings with Jon Richardson on a professional level, but it went beyond that.
Back in my Observer days, Friday afternoons usually were quiet. I’d go to practice, get the update on the injury report and head to the Dowd YMCA for a workout. Apparently, Fridays also were slow for guys that run NFL stadiums because I used to bump into Jon at the gym.
I can’t remember exactly how it started, but we shed our roles as reporter and stadium president. We started playing HORSE on the basketball court and, if other people were around, we’d play games of two-on-two or three-on-three.
The games stopped for a while when Jon first became ill. But he made a recovery and we started playing again. We had common ground because, around that same time, my sister was successfully battling leukemia.
Football was never part of the conversation on those Fridays. Instead, we talked basketball or about Jon’s health or my sister’s.
I didn’t have any contact with Jon after he and Mark resigned in 2009 (reportedly, a move encouraged by their father because the brothers couldn’t get along).
But I’ll always have the memories of Friday afternoons on the basketball court. And I’ll always remember how Jon carried himself with no airs or pretenses.
I’ll always remember that Jon Richardson was just a regular guy.