Pro, College Teams In NC End Partnerships With Security Firm After CEO's Comments

Jun 8, 2020

A referee holds a basketball during an N.C. State women's basketball game at Reynolds Coliseum in 2020.
Credit Mitchell Northam / WUNC

Several professional and college sports teams in North Carolina are ending their partnerships with CPI Security, a home security company based in Charlotte, after the firm’s CEO told an activist that people should focus on “black-on-black crime” rather than the protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

In an email that was posted Friday on the website of Charlotte-based non-profit Queen City Unity, CPI Security CEO Ken Gill downplayed police brutality and told community activist Jorge Millares, “Please spend your time in a more productive way. I challenge your statistics. 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."

Millares and Queen City Unity then called for a boycott of CPI. Since the email was made public, the NFL's  Carolina Panthers, the NBA's Charlotte Hornets, N.C. State, University of South Carolina and minor league baseball teams including the Columbia Fireflies and the Charlotte Knights have ended or canceled their partnerships with the firm.

In an email to WUNC, Ben Devore, director of marketing and communication for the Durham Bulls, said that CPI is “not a current sponsor” of the Bulls and the team “will not be pursuing a partnership with them moving forward.” He added that any old signage from CPI “is in the process of being removed" from the stadium.

The Greensboro Grasshoppers, another minor league baseball team listed on CPI’s website as a sponsor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but posted a statement on Twitter Monday afternoon, saying they too had ended their partnership with CPI.

Gill issued an apology for his comments, and said in a statement to the Charlotte Observer that he and CPI stood “against racism and discrimination of any kind.” But that apology failed to alter the response from local teams and athletic departments that had been sponsored by the company.

According to the Observer, CPI has long been a local partner with the Panthers and had featured recently-retired Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly in commercials.

CPI has been operating for more than 25 years and claims to be the largest privately-held security provider in the Southeast. It is licensed as far north as Maryland and as far south as Florida.

In a tweet, retired NFL player Julius Peppers — a former All-American at UNC and the Panthers all-time leader in sacks — called on CPI customers to end their service, saying: “If you're a customer of (CPI) and have recently said you're not tolerating racism any longer, here's your chance to put those words into action.”