Soon-to-be-former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was issued a $2.75 million fine Thursday after an NFL investigation substantiated allegations of workplace misconduct and harassment.
Richardson, 81, was accused of making sexually and racially inappropriate comments during his time as the owner of the Panthers. The accusations came to light in a Sports Illustrated article in December, and Richardson announced his intention to sell the team shortly after publication.
The franchise was purchased by David Tepper in May when the deal was made official at a league meeting. The $2.275 billion deal is expected to close in the next few weeks, relieving Richardson of his stake in the team.
What were the allegations?
The Sports Illustrated investigation revealed at least four former Panthers employees received “significant” monetary settlements due to misconduct by Richardson.
Among them were 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?
As well as 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 NFL’s release Thursday said each of the publicly reported allegations were investigated, as well as “similar matters” that hadn’t been reported.
Richardson announced his intent to sell the team two days after the Sports Illustrated report was released.
What were the NFL’s findings?
The NFL investigation substantiated the claims — the ones both reported and not — and lead investigator Mary Jo White said that they “identified no information that would either discredit the claims made or that would undermine the veracity of the employees who have made those claims.”
The investigation found the misconduct was limited to Richardson and wasn’t indicative of the conduct of other Panthers employees. But White also recommended that the Panthers be required to report by the end of the year on the progress they’ve made on internal workplace policies.
The Panthers’ statement following the results of the investigation into workplace misconduct by former owner/founder Jerry Richardson pic.twitter.com/9F6ZxeWxrt— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) June 28, 2018
“I appreciate Mary Jo White’s careful and thorough examination of these issues, and her thoughtful recommendations to the Panthers and the entire NFL,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Her recommendations will help ensure that our workplaces are open, inclusive and respectful.”
Where will the fine money go?
The $2.75 million fine against Richardson — possibly the largest ever levied against a pro sports owner — will be used to help organizations that address gender- and race-based issues in the workplace.
Beauty for Ashes Ministry, Inc., Black Women’s Blueprint, and Women of Color Network, Inc. have each received commitments from the NFL.