CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The NFL and the Carolina Panthers declined comment on a report Sunday that at least four former Panthers employees received monetary settlements due to inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by owner Jerry Richardson.
The Sports Illustrated report cites unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.
The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct by the 81-year-old owner. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.
Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.
“We thought it would be best for transparency reasons,” Drummond told The Associated Press.
The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.
Richardson attended the game Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his long-time wife Rosalind in his luxury box.
The team announced Friday was under investigation, but declined to provide any details.
Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.
“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,” Drummond said in the release Friday. “We have work to do to achieve this goal, but we are going to meet it.”
Members of the organization have been mostly quiet on the situation, although coach Ron Rivera said in a statement he has “enormous respect for the man, but will wait for the results of the investigation before making any judgment.”
Richardson, a former football player with the Baltimore Colts, is responsible for bringing the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 when the Panthers joined the league as an expansion team.
The Panthers began play two years later in 1995.
It has been a whirlwind year for the organization.
Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.