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Forced to Play on Turf, Panthers Players Turn Against Billionaire Owner David Tepper

Published 02/28/2024, 7:15 PM EST

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The NFLPA report card is out, and the Panthers have clarified their dissatisfaction with owner David Tepper. Though the Carolina Panthers landed in the middle of the overall lineup at Rank 17, Tepper got a “D” and ranked 28th in the ownership category. Tepper’s inadequate efforts to improve facilities have been met with revolt from the players.

According to the NFLPA, the dominant issue highlighted in the results was “the responding players’ belief that club owner David Tepper is not willing to invest the necessary money into the facilities.” Tepper’s low grade was in stark contrast to the team’s overall decent ratings, ranging from C+ to A. This revelation also highlighted the player’s grievance with the turf, first brought up in 2021.

Panthers are dissatisfied with the unsafe artificial turf

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The turf debate started in 2021 when the Panthers players demanded grass fields instead of artificial turf. The natural grass was replaced with FieldTurf the same year because of its durability and ease of maintenance. However, the players repeatedly spoke up against the decision, citing the increased number of injuries as one of the major reasons.

While the issue remained unresolved, it is clear from the NFLPA’s report that players are unhappy with the lack of action. The report said, “When asked this season, 100% of the player respondents in Carolina said that they would prefer to play on grass than turf. It is a major frustration within the locker room feeling like they are being forced to play on a surface that is not as safe, simply because it is cheaper to maintain.”

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PJ Walker and Shaq Thompson had voiced out their frustration against David Tepper’s turf

Tepper’s journey as the owner since 2018 hasn’t been awe-inspiring. First, there’s the dismal record of the Panthers, and then there’s the players’ vocal dissatisfaction against the facilities. The most pressing issue was the artificial turf installed in the Bank of America Stadium to save money on maintenance. The players repeatedly claim that the turf is responsible for several ankle injuries. Quarterback Walker spoke about the issue after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the 2022 season.

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 “But I think it’s tough on the body,” Walker said, referring to the injury. “It’s tough on the body. Especially for like those big guys. Receivers as well—planting, coming out of breaks. It’s tough. So do I think the league should go to more grass fields? Absolutely.”

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Coaches Reich and Wilks had also expressed their sympathies toward the players but couldn’t do anything, the matter being out of their authority. Veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson also voiced his opinions about the artificial turf, comparing it to “concrete.”

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“Everybody should want grass. They don’t understand how our bodies feel on that turf. (We) should go to grass,” Thompson said, per The Charlotte Observer. “It was hard and (I) was slipping everywhere. Trying to cut back and there was no give out there but we got to play through it. It’s above my pay grade but I hope they listen to us players.”

With the NFLPA supporting the players’ plea to replace the artificial turf with natural grass out of safety concerns, it will be interesting to see if David Tepper will move in the right direction.

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Written by:

Sneha Singh

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Sneha Singh is an NFL beat writer at EssentiallySports in the NFL division. She brings immense experience and creativity to the team, courtesy of her line of work as a writing head and web content writer at esteemed organizations. Having developed a liking for the game of touchdowns and tackles since a young age, Sneha harbors prowess over covering in-depth live coverages and off-field fan action.
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Edited by:

Shubhankar Adhikari