Luis Moreno Jr

After a decade as part of the Carolina Panthers’ Spanish-language radio duo, Luis Moreno Jr. wasn’t at the mic for the team’s season-opening home loss to the Raiders on Sunday.

Why would the popular analyst — who began calling games alongside his uncle, Jaime Moreno, in 2010 — step away from a coveted NFL gig?

It’s “simple,” reports The Charlotte Observer’s Théoden Janes: Moreno Jr. “has been openly supportive of President Donald Trump, and the Panthers didn’t approve.”

According to Janes, the rift began during COVID-19 lockdowns this spring. Stuck at home, the 42-year-old Moreno Jr. — who was born in Mexico, emigrated to the U.S. as a teen and became a Naturalized American citizen last month — began reading online content about Trump and “found out that there are a lot of things that are happening that I wasn’t aware of that make me support him.”

In April, Moreno Jr. used his personal Twitter account to retweet support of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, Janes reports, and was soon “tagged in a tweet along with several other Trump supporters.” Moreno Jr. told Janes “he was then contacted by Eric Fiddleman, the radio and television affiliate manager for the Panthers as well as the Spanish-language radio general manager for the two announcers. Fiddleman tasked Moreno Jr. to “remove any information related to the Panthers from his bios on his personal social-media accounts.” (Janes says the producers declined to comment for the story.)

Moreno Jr. told the Observer he removed links to the Panthers from his personal site as requested, but, Janes writes, “continued to create and share social-media posts supportive of the president and his re-election campaign.”

Among them were posts advancing the pro-Trump conspiracy theory group QAnon.

“If people really find out what QAnon is,” Moreno Jr. told Janes, “I think that more people would be on board because we are nothing but love and truth. All we’re trying to do is just wake up people.”

Panthers’ brass reached out again in the summer, Janes reports, “to talk about [Moreno Jr.’s] social media activity. “Moreno Jr. says he told Fiddleman: ‘If what they want me to do is stop supporting the president, I’m not gonna do that.’”

One reason Moreno Jr. dug in his heels was the nature of his employment: He told the Observer that he was an independent contractor and not an employee of the team or its radio network and believes he therefore had more latitude to express personal views.

“I said, ‘Listen ... I’m not even under contract right now. I am not willing to participate in this project anymore if I’m going to be censored,’” he told The Observer. “So unless they call me, I’m not going to do it anymore. Because I am not OK with them censoring my freedom of speech in support of the president.”

“This has nothing to do with how good I am at what I do,” said Moreno Jr., who was replaced by rookie analyst Antonio Ramos. “I’m one of the best, and I’ll put myself against anybody in the country when it comes to what I do in Spanish. None of my support for the president was done on any of their social-media pages, it was never done on any of the airtime — whether it was a podcast or a broadcast or anything related to the Panthers. This was solely on my personal time on my personal accounts.”