CHARLOTTE – In theory, David Tepper is the definition of a man who has more money than he knows what to do with.
In reality, Tepper knows exactly what he wants to do with it.
"Winning is the most important thing both on the field and in the community," Tepper said in a statement released Monday when he officially became owner of the Carolina Panthers.
Seven weeks ago, Tepper's now-fellow NFL owners approved his planned purchase of the Panthers. At that time, he also referenced winning both on and off the field.
"You win in a lot of ways," Tepper said, "and I don't like to lose in any way."
Tepper previously was a minority owner in the tradition-steeped Steelers, a franchise as renowned in the football universe as Tepper is in the financial universe.
But Tepper, one of the few people in the world able to cut a check for more than $2 billion, hasn't always been a winner. Looking back at his upbringing in inner city Pittsburgh 50 years ago, Tepper understands that he easily could have come out on the losing side.
That truth provides motivation for his financial model – a model that he hopes more Panthers players adopt.
"My high school class was near 800 going in and 500 going out. Just that sort of thing – and it's worse than that now in some places – I do think about that sort of stuff," Tepper during his introductory press conference Tuesday at Bank of America Stadium. "It gives me an appreciation to help on the charity side – where I came from and how people lived and what happens in certain situations."
In a nutshell, Tepper sees opportunities to make money as opportunities to give more money away to charitable causes he deeply believes in. He's done it in his hometown. He's done it in the New York/New Jersey area that he called home for years. He's done it in Florida since he recently relocated his hedge fund there.
Now, he'll do it in Charlotte and surrounding areas. And he'll encourage Panthers players to do it – to continue to do it.
"I've got to tell ya – one of the great excitements for me is the possibility of community activity and charity activities with this platform," Tepper said after his press conference. "We have a great group of players who already have their own foundations, and from what I've seen so far, they are fairly community minded down here. (Greg) Olsen, Cam (Newton), (Thomas) Davis, (Torrey) Smith – the list goes on and on. This platform is a great way to reach out into the community and get people involved."
The last player on that list, a Panthers newcomer in Smith, was outspoken when NFL owners approved a new national anthem policy around the same time they approved Tepper. Smith has never shied away from standing up for what he sees as social injustices, and while Smith has always stood for the anthem, he also stands up for those who have been vilified in some circles for kneeling in pursuit of social change.
Tepper himself, citing another symbol of American patriotism, shared a take of his own on football and the flag that has little to do with saluting or sitting.
"With my charity stuff, I'm a big believer in social justice, and I'm a big believer in the country – I'm patriotic," Tepper said. "You guys know the Pledge of Allegiance? To the flag of the United States of America? 'One nation. Under God. Indivisible.'
"And what's the last part? What's that last part? 'With liberty and justice for all.' That's what it's all about – liberty and justice for all. That is the most patriotic thing going."
For the world at large, Tepper wants a level playing field. He wants everybody to have a fair chance to win. Same thing goes for inside his new building, where he matter-of-factly stated that his employees – whether they touch the football or not – will be respected in an open, family environment befitting of "liberty and justice for all."
And on the football field, in an NFL built in a fashion that gives every team a fair chance to win, Tepper wants every part of the Panthers universe – players, coaches, staff, fans – to experience the sport's ultimate victory.
"I think we're going to be doing things over the next few years that are going to surprise people," Tepper said.
Here's the thing: Tepper's last statement didn't refer to things on the field. It referred to things off the field.
Be it a Lombardi Trophy or the financial fruits that come with being an NFL owner, Tepper will know what to do with it.