Panthers owner Jerry Richardson accused of sexual and racial misconduct
The Carolina Panthers acknowledged an investigation into workplace misconduct by owner Jerry Richardson on Friday, and the NFL announced that it had taken over that investigation on Sunday. However, after originally omitting significant details about the nature of the alleged misconduct, Sports Illustrated finally has uncovered what he is being investigated for.
According to L. Jon Wertheim and Viv Bernstein, at least four Panthers staffers have been given settlements after suing the organization for workplace misconduct by Richardson. And while those cases are sealed as part of the structure of the settlement, the SI report also includes details of sexual and racial misconduct that paint a disturbing picture of the Panthers owner.
Panthers employees allegedly have been subjected routinely to sexual commentary from Richardson on Fridays, when all employees are allowed to dress down from traditional office attire and wear jeans. And jean day apparently has been a regular source of issue for female employees.
The Sports Illustrated report alleges that Richardson routinely asked female employees wearing jeans to turn around so he could stare at their posteriors and offer commentary, including recycled one-liners about how they managed to fit into those jeans.
Sports Illustrated also details an exchange between Richardson and an African-American scout in which Richardson used a racial slur. The scout since has left the Panthers but is reportedly among the four employees who settled out of court with the Panthers for Richardson’s workplace misconduct.
The NFL has rules in place for potentially disciplining Richardson should its investigation conclude that he had displayed conduct detrimental to the league or violated any federal workplace statutes. However, it is unclear to what extent the league would be able to punish Richardson.
How they ultimately choose to investigate this matter and then the ensuing punishment decisions likely will loom large with a collective bargaining agreement upcoming and general perception that the league has been particularly harsh on players while going light on owners.