NFL fines Panthers owner Jerry Richardson for workplace misconduct

NFL fines Panthers owner Jerry Richardson for workplace misconduct

Outgoing Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has been fined $2.75 million by the NFL after an investigation into sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Thursday.

29 Haziran 2018 - 02:00

Outgoing Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has been fined $2.75 million by the NFL after an investigation into sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Thursday.

The independent investigation, conducted by former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, substantiated the allegations against Richardson. It also stated that the team failed to report the allegations or any resolution agreements to the league.

The NFL, in a statement, said most of the money from the fine will be "used to support the work of organizations dedicated to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside of the workplace."

The Panthers initiated an investigation into Richardson on Dec. 15 and informed the league of what was taking place. The NFL took over the investigation two days later when Sports Illustrated published a story in which four former employees anonymously claimed they reached a financial settlement with Richardson in exchange for silence.

The allegations included three cases of sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur toward a team scout. None of the employees remain with the organization.

"The findings and recommendations that I have shared with the Commissioner are the product of an extensive review, including interviews with club executives, current and former employees, analysis of documents, electronic records, and other sources of information," White said in a statement. "I particularly appreciate the work of the club employees in assessing the need for enhancing the club's workplace policies, procedures, and training and implementing appropriate changes."

In a letter to Richardson published by SI, one of the women said she "didn't know what to do" about alleged multiple sexual advances by the Panthers owner.

"I didn't know what to do when you called me to your stadium suite in the middle of the week so you could take off my shoes, place my legs in your lap and rub their entire length, from toes to crotch," the woman wrote in the letter. "I didn't know what to do when you asked me to turn around so you could see how my jeans looked. I didn't know what to do when you brushed my breasts to put my seat belt around me in the front seat of your car. I didn't know what to do when you put your hands on my mouth, for me to kiss them. I didn't know what to do when you asked me uncomfortable, sexually charged questions.

"I didn't know what to do. So, I did what you told me to do.''

Richardson, 81, announced shortly after the NFL took charge of the investigation that he planned to sell the team that he and investors paid $206 million for in 1993. He also stepped away from the day-to-day operations, naming Tina Becker the new COO.

The sale of the Panthers to hedge fund billionaire David Tepper was approved at the owners meetings in May for an NFL-record $2.275 billion and is expected to close in the next two weeks, the league said. Tepper was briefed separately about the results of the investigation by White.

Richardson's final act as an owner came at the May meetings in Atlanta when he cast his vote for Tepper.

The man known as "Big Cat'' to his players and many in the Carolinas saw the Panthers reach the Super Bowl twice -- after the 2003 and 2015 seasons -- and has been one of the most powerful owners in the league.

He chaired the prestigious stadium committee, co-chaired the committee to select Goodell as NFL commissioner and headed the effort to negotiate the current collective bargain agreement.

Richardson was such a tough businessman that, in an effort to get a better deal for the NFL in labor talks in 2011, he reportedly leaned across the negotiation table and asked quarterback Peyton Manning if he knew what a profit-and-loss statement was.

Exactly what Richardson's legacy will be remains to be seen. Of the more than a dozen owners and team executives interviewed by ESPN before the investigation was complete, all spoke favorably of Richardson.

"He's one of the most important owners that we've had,'' New York Giants co-owner John Mara said. "He did a great job of establishing the franchise in Charlotte and built it into one of the most respected organizations in the league. They've had a lot of success on the field.

"I'm hoping that will be his legacy, because he's been very influential and very important to the NFL.''

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, usually outspoken, was one of the few that withheld opinion until the investigation was completed.

"Because they are in the throes of a pretty sensitive time right now,'' Jones said of the allegations and sale of the team. "That's not negative. I just want to reserve my comments.''

But Jones did comment when the news initially broke.

"I'm very sad,'' he said after a late-season win against Oakland. ''Jerry is one of the really, really, really outstanding men of football that I've ever met, and I really admire him. I know that he made it the old-fashioned way. He worked for it. He took what he made in a short time in pro football and turned it into a great business and then used that to get the Carolina franchise.

"So he's a great story."

However, a battle with Jones and some of the so-called new money in the NFL regarding where to put a new stadium in Los Angeles ultimately soured Richardson on league matters.

Some believe that's why Richardson attended only one league meeting -- in Charlotte two years ago -- after he lost the battle in L.A. in January 2016 prior to the May meetings.

Richardson headed the committee recommending the Rams and Chargers move into a new stadium in Carson, California. Jones championed the Inglewood plan.

"He was a strong advocate for the Carson project,'' Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said of Richardson. "I know he was disappointed when it went the other way. Even though that particular issue didn't go his way, he was glad to see the NFL return to L.A.

"It was something that was very important to him for a long time.''

Richardson took the same approach to the CBA, which was considered a victory for the league.

"The current CBA we're on, he put in a lot of man hours that he took away unselfishly from the Panthers for the betterment of the league,'' said Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane, who was with the Panthers from 1998 until spring 2017. "The league is very strong financially, and he's a big part of that.''

There will be arguments that Richardson's reputation and legacy has been stained.

"I only know the contributions Jerry made that I am familiar with, and they are significant,'' Steelers owner Art Rooney II said. "I'm proud to call him my friend and happy that he's been a part of the league all these years.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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