Jerry Richardson
Carolina Panthers owner/founder Jerry Richardson. (Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

As soon as news broke that Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was being investigated for workplace misconduct, people wondered aloud what it would mean for the long-term future of the Carolina Panthers. It didn’t take long for that to get answered: the Carolina Panthers will be put up for sale at the end of the season.

Allegations against Richardson moved pretty quickly from being a team-led investigation into vague “workplace misconduct” to an NFL-led investigation and more specific details of the misconduct reported by Sports Illustrated.

According to L. Jon Wertheim and Vin Berstein of Sports Illustrated:

“[O]n multiple occasions when Richardson’s conduct has triggered complaints—for sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at an African American employee … Confidential settlements were reached and payments were made to complainants, accompanied by non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses designed to shield the owner and the organization from further liability and damaging publicity.”

 

In the same report, Wertheim and Bernstein included details regarding how knowledge of these allegations was anything but surprising to a lot of employees of the Carolina Panthers. In the report, the authors wrote:

“Richardson’s conduct was treated as something of a running office joke, according to multiple former Panthers team employees, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Male employees would knowingly ask the women whether the Carolina owner had noticed them that day.”

As with so many other serious allegations of this nature, it seems trivial to talk about it in terms of the ramifications regarding the occupation of the accused. Nevertheless, fans of entertainment and pop-culture had to weigh to what extent misconduct allegations takes away from one’s art. This is sports’ version of that, in a way. How will Richardson’s fall from grace change the perception of the Carolina Panthers? How does it change the perception the team has with its fans? Will there be more allegations against more people in the NFL world?

For what it’s worth, if selling his team is the NFL’s “punishment” for Jerry Richardson, it’s worth noting that Richardson is being punished into a nice little payday. In 1993, Richardson and several other investors were awarded the Carolina Panthers as an NFL expansion team. To the team up and running, Richardson and his group spent $206 million. According to Forbes, the 2017 valuation of the Carolina Panthers is $2.3 billion.

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