The investigation into Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was spurred by financial settlements made to team employees by Richardson after accusations of sexual misconduct and the use of a racial slur, according to a report on Sports Illustrated by L. Jon Wertheim and Vin Bernstein.
Unfortunately, SI's revelation that Richardson paid off employees who complained about his misconduct isn't as disturbing as the reported details of Richardson's misconduct.
The team announced Friday the 81-year Richardson was under investigation, but declined to provide any details.
"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", Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said in Friday's announcement. Overseeing the probe originally was minority owner and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, but the investigation now will be handled exclusively by the NFL.
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Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a release Friday night that he has had a strong relationship with Richardson since he joined the franchise as coach in 2012. "I have enormous respect for the man, but will wait for the results of the investigation before making any judgment".
The Panthers have made a series of peculiar moves in the past year. The team declined to address specifics when contacted by SI, but Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday that the team asked the National Football League to handle the investigation for "transparency reasons". The scout left the team but employed a Charlotte attorney to negotiate a settlement. The move was odd considering Carolina has made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.
"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons", Drummond told The Associated Press. He underwent quadruple-bypass surgery in 2002 and was placed on a donor waiting list for a new heart.
Richardson, who primarily works behind the scenes and rarely does interviews, is one of only two owners to have owned a franchise since its inception. Richardson said in 2009 he and his family owned 48 percent of the team, with the other 52 percent being owned by a group of about a dozen minority partners. Richardson is a former wide receiver at Wofford and with the Baltimore Colts who made his money mostly in the restaurant business.