When the Carolina Panthers volunteered that there would be an external investigation about alleged workplace misconduct from team owner Jerry Richardson, it became a matter of when and not if a media outlet reported on the specifics. Today, the NFL announced that they and not the Panthers would be leading the investigation, and then the hammer dropped from SI reporters L. John Wertheim and Viv Bernstein about a pattern of disturbing behavior towards women and minorities.
[M]ultiple former female employees recount that Richardson’s behavior began to feel like a violation when he spoke of their bodies. He had a special interest in female grooming, they say. He would notice when their nails were not up to his standards, and pay for them to get manicures. Multiple female employees recalled to SI that Richardson asked them if he could personally shave their legs.
Former employees allege that in addition to verbal harassment, Richardson engaged in improper acts. According to sources, on multiple occasions Richardson requested female employees to visit him during a workday in his suite inside Bank of America Stadium. The women would be escorted by Richardson’s assistant, who would then depart, leaving the owner alone with a junior employee. One former female employee recalls Richardson, who stands 6’3″, arriving barefoot and asking for a foot massage. Says one such invitee: “The first time, you thought it was an important meeting with the owner. You [then] realized it was never anything that couldn’t be discussed over the phone.” Others talk of Richardson giving back rubs that lingered too long or went too low down the spine.
There were also allegations that he would insist on fastening women’s seatbelts, and in doing so would reach “across their lap and brushing his hand across their breasts before putting the belt in the clasp.”
The story detailed multiple times in the 1990’s that Richardson’s fast food empire reached settlements pertaining to mistreatment of African-Americans, including one where a woman, whose lawyer told SI the settlement was “not insubstantial,” was fired after confronting Richardson about a superior complaining that the Hardee’s branch where she was a general manager was “filled with monkeys.”
And there was also this apparently recent issue with a former Panthers 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.”
Reading this report, it is hard to imagine that Richardson remains the owner of the Panthers much longer. Please do head to SI to read the whole story for further context.