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Jerry Richardson to sell Carolina Panthers amid NFL probe
Owner focus of workplace harassment inquiry
 
Published Sunday, December 17, 2017 8:34 pm
by Herbert L. White

The Carolina Panthers are for sale.


Jerry Richardson, founder and owner of the NFL franchise, announced on the team’s website he’ll sell the team at season’s end, closing a tumultuous weekend that opened with allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior. Sports Illustrated magazine reported Sunday that anonymous sources alleged Richardson settled with several former employees for directing racial slurs at a black scout and sexual harassment against women employees.

“I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership,” Richardson wrote. “Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of this NFL season. We will not begin the sale process, nor will we entertain any inquiries, until the very last game is played.”

According to Sports Illustrated, former Panthers employees revealed a litany of inappropriate remarks and actions against women employees, including asking them to massage his feet and brushing against their breasts when buckling their seat belts before driving them to lunch.

The team announced Friday a probe into the allegations led by the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan and overseen by Panthers minority owner Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff and University of North Carolina system president Erskine Bowles. The NFL announced Sunday it would take over the investigation.

Richardson, who did not address the allegations in the letter, has come under scrutiny in the past over workplace-related issues. As chairman of Flagstar, the holding company for the Denny’s and Hardee’s restaurant chains in the early 1990s, lawsuits were filed alleging bias against black customers and employees. The company settled with the U.S. Justice Department without admitting guilt. Richardson’s settlements with former Panthers employees included non-disclosure clauses that required the claimants’ silence, according to Sports Illustrated, which spent several weeks interviewing sources for the article.

Richardson, 81, landed the NFL franchise in 1993, which bumped the Carolinas into a new level of national sports prominence while turning Charlotte into a football city by eclipsing the NBA Hornets in popularity. The Panthers, who are 10-4 after beating the Green Bay Packers Sunday, have made a pair of Super Bowl appearances, the most recent in 2016.  

“I can never repay all of you for the kindness and generosity you have shown me, [wife] Rosalind, and my family for more than two decades,” Richardson wrote. “We have the best fans in football  – and I truly mean that. In my opinion, we also have the best organization, and they have served us well.”

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