11:49 AM PT -- The Panthers just released a statement on the statue's removal, saying, "We were aware of the most recent conversation surrounding the Jerry Richardson statue and are concerned there may be attempts to take it down. We are moving the statue in the interest of public safety."
The statue of Jerry Richardson-- ex-NFL owner and alleged workplace scumbag -- at Bank of America Stadium is officially coming down ... and reports say it might be forever.
The 13-foot sculpture -- which was gifted to 83-year-old Richardson back in 2016 -- is feared to be a target for vandals in wake of national protests ... so the Carolina Panthers are having it removed.
While excavation is expected to be described as temporary by the team ... reports say it could be permanent, given the past allegations of sexual harassment and racist language against Richardson.
As we previously reported, the former Panthers honcho was fined $2.75 MILLION after NFL investigators claimed he was, indeed, a terrible person at work.
In the NFL probe, officials say they found evidence to support Richardson did, in fact, sexually harass female staffers and use the n-word while running the team.
The investigation was ultimately a big part of why Richardson is no longer an NFL owner ... as he gave up the Panthers in a sale to David Tepper back in 2018.
As for why the statue hasn't been removed since ... Tepper claimed in a press conference after buying the team he was "contractually obligated" to keep the piece up.
We've reached out to the Panthers for comment ... but so far, no word back yet.