Panthers owner Jerry Richardson under investigation for alleged workplace misconduct

ByJim Trotter ESPN logo
Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Carolina Panthers have opened an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct against owner and founder Jerry Richardson.

In a statement Friday, team spokesman Steven Drummond acknowledged accusations had been made against Richardson, 81.

"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," Drummond said. "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. We have work to do to achieve this goal, but we are going to meet it."

The NFL became aware on Friday afternoon that the Panthers had initiated an investigation, a source told ESPN.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league would decline comment at this time.

The investigation is being led by international law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, and will be overseen by minority owner and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, according to the Panthers. Because the matter is under legal review, the team cannot comment publicly on the specifics of the allegations.

"I have had a strong relationship with Mr. Richardson during my time with the Panthers," coach Ron Rivera said in a statement released through the team. "I have enormous respect for the man, but will wait for the results of the investigation before making any judgment."

Richardson became the first former NFL player since George Halas to own an NFL team when he was awarded an expansion franchise on Oct. 26, 1993. The Panthers began play two years later in 1995.

Richardson was hospitalized in 2008, one month after receiving a pacemaker. He underwent quadruple-bypass surgery in 2002 and was placed on a donor waiting list for a new heart. He received the new heart on Feb. 1, 2009, and has not had any known setbacks since.

He is one of only two owners to have owned a franchise since its inception. The other is the Houston Texans' Bob McNair.

Richardson has worked primarily behind the scenes during his tenure with the Panthers and rarely does interviews. But he has been active through the years with league matters.

He also has been involved in a few surprising and unexpected moves within the Panthers the past eight months. Team president Danny Morrison resigned in February after spending eight years taking over many of the duties of Richardson's sons, Mark and Jon, who left the organization in 2009 amid in-house fighting over how the Panthers were being run.

Morrison has not been replaced.

Richardson fired general manager Dave Gettleman, who helped the Panthers reach Super Bowl 50, the day before training camp. He replaced him with Marty Hurney, who had previously been fired as general manager after a 1-5 start in 2012.

In 2014, when Richardson was under fire for initially allowing Greg Hardy to play while the Pro Bowl defensive end awaited a jury trial on domestic violence charges, the owner broke down in tears while being honored with the Echo Foundation's Award Against Indifference.

"When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference," Richardson said. "I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple."

Hardy was not activated for the next game and spent the rest of the season on the NFL commissioner's exempt list. He was not re-signed the following year.

Information from ESPN's David Newton and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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