Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has reportedly been accused of sexual harassment by multiple former employees, and both he and the team have paid out settlements paired with nondisclosure agreements to keep it quiet. This information was revealed Sunday in an exclusive report by Sports Illustrated, which writes that Richardson engaged in sexually suggestive banter and leering in the workplace, particularly on “Jeans Day,” when employees at team headquarters would wear denim pants on Fridays.
According to SI, Richardson would comment on the jean-clad women’s bodies. One particular quote, often repeated as SI tells it, went as follows: “Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up. I bet you had to lay down on your bed to fit into those jeans. Did you step into those jeans or did you have to jump into them?”
The report also alleges racial discrimination by Richardson, stating that the longtime NFL team owner once struck a settlement deal with a black former employee for having referred to them with a racial slur. It also characterizes Richardson’s attitude in the workplace as having “antebellum echoes,” noting that all employees refer to him simply as “Mister,” with no last name.
Richardson allegedly using a racial slur is least surprising part of this story. https://t.co/APA3JTYevx
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) December 17, 2017
On Friday, news broke that Richardson was facing an internal investigation into claims of “workplace misconduct” by the Panthers organization. Then, on Sunday morning, mere hours before the SI story dropped, it was announced the NFL itself was taking over the investigation. The Panthers organization said in a statement that the team welcomed the league’s involvement.
“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. 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.”
Richardson, 81, is a major figure within the NFL’s ownership ranks, and as SI notes, a 13-foot-tall statue of him looms outside the Panthers stadium. In all, at least four ex-Panthers employees have reportedly reached settlements with Richardson, although they have also entered into nondisclosure agreements legally preventing them from speaking out publicly.