'He sexually harassed and assaulted me': Carolina Panthers issue statement after ex employee speaks out in Sports Illustrated

(AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)

"Do you realize how much you hurt me?"

The words top an article published in Sports Illustrated on Thursday.

They come from a former employee who says she was sexually harassed and assaulted by owner Jerry Richardson.

It comes four months after the NFL took over an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct by Richardson.

The article includes six letters the woman wrote -- Dear Bob McNair, Dear NFL, Dear Enablers, Dear Ron Rivera, Dear Jerry Richardson, Dear Future Owner of the Carolina Panthers.

She wrote, in part:

I did not misunderstand any of Jerry Richardson's comments to me. They were clear. He wrote down many of them in notes so there wouldn't be any misunderstanding. And, regardless of what his intentions were-you'll have to ask him that question-he sexually harassed and assaulted me. That is my truth.


In the part addressed to Richardson, she said:
I didn't know what to do when you started leaving me suggestive handwritten notes, insisting that I reply and then destroy the note. I didn't know what to do when you summoned me to your personal office, instructed me to sit in the chair across from you, pulled my chair towards you so you could sandwich my legs, which you proceeded to rub, between yours. I didn't know what to do when you called me to your stadium suite in the middle of the week so you could take off my shoes, place my legs in your lap and rub their entire length, from toes to crotch. I didn't know what to do when you asked me to turn around so you could see how my jeans looked. I didn't know what to do when you brushed my breasts to put my seat belt around me in the front seat of your car. I didn't know what to do when you put your hands on my mouth, for me to kiss them. I didn't know what to do when you asked me uncomfortable, sexually charged questions.

Read more here.

The Carolina Panthers released a statement Thursday, in response to the article. It said:

Since December 2017, when we commenced an internal investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct, the organization has taken the appropriate steps to remediate any misconduct and ensure a safe and comfortable work environment. These claims are very serious and we have cooperated with the NFL 's investigation and remain fully committed to improving every facet of our organization.

Because this matter continues to be under an ongoing legal review, we will not comment publicly on the specifics of the allegations but we do feel compelled to establish what we are doing to provide a healthy work environment.

Tina Becker was named COO in September and immediately began working towards addressing the issues. The team allocated significant resources towards reforming our workplace, restructured executive responsibilities and added a comprehensive training program on harassment and diversity and inclusion issues. We have overhauled our related policies and procedures, including improvements in our reporting to the league, all to make certain that employees who have a concern have multiple ways to report those concerns and can feel comfortable doing so. We have implemented several new employee programs, all aimed at creating an environment in which our staff can feel proud to work.
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