Panthers end relationship with CPI Security after CEO’s George Floyd protest remarks

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The Carolina Panthers ended their relationship with CPI Security on Saturday evening. The announcement comes after the release of an email containing what the leader of a local community group called “racist comments” by CPI’s founder and CEO Ken Gill.

The Panthers issued a statement Saturday stating: “Last Saturday, we said we are committed to doing our part and we mean it. CPI has been a long-term partner but, upon reflection, we feel that it is right to end our relationship. We have informed Mr. Gill of our decision tonight.”

And on Sunday, the Charlotte Hornets and Charlotte Knights announced they were severing ties with the company as well.

”Our chairman (Michael Jordan) has been very clear about his thoughts surrounding the issues of racial equality, social justice and diversity,” the Hornets said in a statement. “We believe it is appropriate at this time to end our partnership with CPI.”

N.C. State and the University of South Carolina athletic programs and several other minor league baseball teams, including the Durham Bulls and Columbia Fireflies, also said Sunday they were cutting ties or not renewing contracts with CPI.

CPI, headquartered in Charlotte, has been one of the Panthers’ closest local partners for many years.

The issue first came about after Jorge Millares, leader of the Queen City Unity organization, said he sent out a mass email calling for action in response to killings of black people such as George Floyd by Minneapolis police. On Friday, Millares said the reaction to his email was positive, except from Gill.

“Please spend your time in a more productive way,” Gill told Millares in an email, which Millares posted on Facebook. “A better use of time, would be to focus on the black on black crime and senseless killing of our young men by other young men.”

“Have a great day, Ken Gill,” the CEO ended his email.

Millares posted on Facebook that, because of Gill’s “insensitive and racist comments,” Queen City Unity is calling for a boycott of CPI. Queen City Unity is a nonprofit that says on its website that its mission is to drive equity and equality for all in Charlotte.

In a statement, Gill apologized for his remarks, stating they “did not directly address the public’s outcry for racial justice and equality in the wake of George Floyd’s senseless killing.”

“Let me say that CPI, and I personally, stand against racism and discrimination of any kind, and we are actively supporting solutions like the new CMPD de-escalation training facility that will bring positive change to our community. I fully support the call for racial equality and justice in our community and our country,” Gill said. “We (at CPI) take a great deal of pride in our inclusive culture and in protecting the families and diverse communities we serve. I apologize if my comments did not reflect those values.”

Carolina Panther Luke Kuechly and the Luke Kuechly gnome.
Carolina Panther Luke Kuechly and the Luke Kuechly gnome.

Former linebacker and recently-hired pro scout Luke Kuechly was known for doing commercials with the company during his time in the league.

Earlier in the day Saturday, Julius Peppers, former Panthers defensive end and a member of the team’s front office, expressed his concerns over people staying loyal to CPI.

“If you’re a customer of @cpisecurity and have recently said you’re not tolerating racism any longer, here’s your chance to put those words into action,” Peppers tweeted.

The Panthers issued a statement last Saturday speaking out against racial inequality following the death of Floyd.

“The Carolina Panthers send our deepest condolences to the Floyd family and all who have been impacted by the cruel and senseless death of George Floyd. The Floyd family has faced this tragedy with extraordinary grace and dignity,” the team said.

“We must work together and take meaningful, sustained action to find solutions and enact change that is so desperately needed to end racial and social injustice. We are committed to doing our part.”

Over the past week, many leaders of the Panthers organization have spoken out on the need to address racial inequality, from head coach Matt Rhule to multiple players on the team’s Player Impact Committee. Team owner David Tepper has also expressed his support for the many players who have been involved in peaceful demonstrations.

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