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.”
That conversation got Mike Florio of PFT thinking, and he opined that Richardson was being "more than a little heavy-handed" in his approach to the situation.
There really is two ways of looking at it, however.
Richardson is the majority owner of the Carolina Panthers, and he the right to run the team how he sees fit. Of course, he can't turn the Panthers 53-man roster into the second coming of Nazi Germany or force his players to play in the nude every Sunday—those are obviously outside his legal rights as owner.
But setting a policy on the appearance or personal hygiene of his players is well within his rights.
I remember back to my first job as a bagger at a local grocery store. Our owner had a similar policy: short hair, no piercings, clean shaven. I can't remember if there was any word on tattoos, but the point is the same. Businesses can and will regulate the appearance of their employees.
For the most part, appearance (to a certain degree) is something they should be able to set policy on. Employees are the face of that business, and anything that could turn off customers from your business—whether it be a tattoo or piercing—is bad for the bottom line.
Richardson certainly knows a thing or two about running a business. Call him traditional or old fashioned, but Richardson made a fortune by opening and operating the Hardee's franchise. He knows what he's doing in that sense.
He's applying that same thinking to the Panthers. He'd prefer—key word there—that his players, and especially the face of his franchise, look presentable. No tattoos. No piercings. Well-groomed.
That's not asking the world. Newton was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. His face and likeness are going to be all over the place in the Carolina's and, if he turns himself into a star quarterback, all around America, too.
But of course, there is another way of thinking about it as well, which is the side Florio takes.
Richardson hasn't been stringent in his policy (see: Jeremy Shockey, Steve Smith). While he said he "could go without the tattoos" on Shockey, that didn't stop him from allowing GM Marty Hurney from acquiring him. And really, I doubt it would have stopped him from selecting Newton in April's draft, either.
Florio is right—Jerry Richardson isn't the father of Cameron Newton. If Newton gets a piercing or a tattoo, that's his right, and the only thing Richardson could really do to punish him is release him—which we all know isn't happening.
This is more of a gentleman's agreement in my mind. Richardson wants the face of his franchise—the Panthers money maker of now and the future—to look presentable. Newton understands this and has abided by it.
So while Richardson's comments do seem a little heavy-handed, they aren't the end-all of breakable offenses for a Panthers player. It's Richardson's right to apply policy regarding appearance, and it's Newton's right to do what he wants with his own body. Let's just leave this story at that.