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Panthers say leaked documents paint 'incomplete picture'

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Jerry Richardson's finances are under scrutiny. (US Presswire)

With the Panthers currently in the early stages of a battle to secure partial public funding for renovations to Bank of America Stadium -- and new Governor Pat McCrory declining to offer up state funds -- the last thing the team wants is documents detailing their profitability leaking out to the public.

So ... yeah. Deadspin posting financials for the Panthers' 2011 and 2012 fiscal years and writing that the team was "making more than $100 million in profit over the fiscal years covering those two seasons" won't do Carolina any favors on the public front.

The team responded Thursday to the post on Deadspin, which included the actual financial documents produced by accounting firm Deloitte and Touche (who probably will not be called for Jerry Richardson's next accounting job).

"The Deadspin story presents an incomplete picture of the Carolina Panthers profitability. The figures offer an isolated snapshot of the team's financial situation during an unusual time as the NFL lockout loomed," the team said in a statement. "At the time, the team had strategically reduced its spending because of the uncertainty and as part of a long-term plan to secure the team's best talent once a collective bargaining agreement had been reached.

"The team's actual operating cash flow, even before federal and state tax payments were made, was significantly less than the accounting income reported in the story. The most meaningful reflection of a company's profitability is cash flow, and the team's operating cash flow fluctuated between pre-tax figures of $26.7M in fiscal year 2011 and $39.8M in fiscal year 2012.

"A detailed review of the financial statements demonstrates the difficulty of being competitive in the NFL, paying players to the cap, and trying to add the financing of a major stadium renovation."

The problem for the Panthers, regardless of the accuracy of their statement, is that the Deadspin headline and news sat out there for a few hours Thursday, accumulating plenty of eyeballs and generating plenty of skepticism.

When the financials are posted, the biggest difficulty is fighting back public sentiment that the Panthers aren't immensely profitable. It's one thing to be a football team making gobs of money; people expect that.

It's another thing to be a football team making gobs of money while asking for public funding to improve a stadium. Even if the numbers aren't as damning as the headline at Deadspin claims.

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