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.
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.