The Carolina Panthers extended settlements to at least four former employees, following allegations of sexual misconduct and racial discrimination on the part of team owner Jerry Richardson.
Sports Illustrated catalogued the offenses purportedly committed by the 81-year old. Each of the settlements was subject to confidentiality agreements and non-disparagement clauses, which would prevent Richardson’s supposed victims from speaking out.
According to ESPN, the NFL has taken over the investigation into Richardson’s misdeeds, at the request of the Carolina Panthers.
“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,” said Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond on Friday.
“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.”
Some of the accusations stacked up against the octogenarian multi-millionaire were troubling – others, simply bizarre.
Richardson allegedly made comments about the appearance of some female employees and visitors, occasionally lewd and striking. He inappropriately touched women in his employ and made strange requests – including offers to shave female employee’s legs or give them foot rubs.
Away from sexism, Richardson appears to have also made forays into implementing a racist workplace regimen.
He’s accused of using racial slurs to refer to a Panthers scout, which eventually led to a confidential settlement.
Richardson also tried to govern the lives and philosophies of black players on his team, remarking on their appearances and threatening to punish any who advocated African-American social causes.
While the total amount paid to former female employees and black players isn’t public, Sports Illustrated claims the settlements’ value is “significant.”
Members of the organization, according to ESPN, have been mostly silent on the investigation and any of its possible consequences. Coach Ron Rivera said in a statement that he has “enormous respect for the man but will wait for the results of the investigation before making any judgment.”
An anonymous Panthers player told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Saturday that, while he’s never encountered racial problems from Richardson, he supports others for speaking up.
“I respect them for speaking up, no matter who it is,” he said. “[…] equality is what we’re going for.”
Richardson, writes ESPN, was the second former NFL player ‘since George Halas’ to own an NFL team. His net worth is estimated as being anywhere between $820 million and $2.5 billion.
Lately, the octogenarian has taken to keeping the windows to his end-zone booth shuttered during home games.