The Carolina Panthers announced Friday that an internal investigation has been launched into allegations of workplace misconduct against the team’s owner, Jerry Richardson. Two days later, the NFL took over the investigation.
What are the allegations? In a report from Sports Illustrated, it was revealed that at least four former Panthers employees received “significant” monetary settlements for inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by Richardson.
Among the allegations are sexually inappropriate comments directed at female employees:
Among those in heaviest rotation: Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up. I bet you had to lay down on your bed to fit into those jeans. Did you step into those jeans or did you have to jump into them?
And a racial slur directed at a former team scout:
Perceptions of casual racism hardened recently when, multiple sources told SI, Richardson directed a racial slur at an African-American scout for the Panthers. The scout left the team this year—but not, according to sources, before he sought the counsel of a Charlotte attorney who negotiated a confidential settlement on his behalf. Contacted by SI and asked if he wished to comment, the scout responded, “I’m not in a position to talk.”
The Panthers reportedly learned of Sports Illustrated’s ongoing investigation of the team last week.
Jerry Richardson announced he will sell the team. Two days after the Panthers announced the investigation and on the same day Sports Illustrated published its report on the allegations, Richardson announced he will sell the franchise.
“I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership,” Richardson said in a letter on Panthers.com. “Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of this NFL season.”
It remains to be seen how the investigation will affect the sale of the team, or how the sale will affect the investigation.
Who will lead the investigation? The Panthers did not comment on the specifics of the allegations against Richardson upon their announcement of the investigation’s launch, but said it would be led by law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Bill Clinton’s former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
“Erskine Bowles is a trusted leader of unquestioned integrity. We look forward to this report, which we know will be honest and thorough,” Drummond said.
That lasted just two days, though. On Sunday, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said that the NFL had taken over the investigation, according to ESPN’s David Newton. The NFL will use an outside counsel to conduct the investigation.
What are the Panthers saying about the investigation? “The Carolina Panthers and Mr. Richardson take these allegations very seriously and are fully committed to a full investigation and taking appropriate steps to address and remediate any misconduct,” Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said in a statement. “The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally. We have work to do to achieve this goal, but we are going to meet it.”
The news of the investigation was first broken by ESPN’s Jim Trotter, who included a statement from Panthers coach Ron Rivera in his report.
"I have had a strong relationship with Mr. Richardson during my time with the Panthers," Rivera told ESPN. "I have enormous respect for the man, but will wait for the results of the investigation before making any judgment."
The NFL declined to comment on the investigation, according to Pro Football Talk.
Richardson, 81, is the only owner the Panthers have ever had since Carolina was awarded the team as an expansion franchise in 1993.