It’s not often a sports franchise ends up looking into its own owner, but that’s what is happening in Carolina.
Accusations of sexual harassment or misconduct have been flowing out of the entertainment on a near daily basis for weeks now, but they’ve largely stayed away from sports. That changed with claims made against NFL Network and ESPN commentators a few days ago, and now has seemingly popped up again with allegations being made against Carolina Panthers owners Jerry Richardson.
ESPN’s Jim Trotter broke the news that the Panthers are investigating Richardson for what are being called “allegations of workplace misconduct.” No details have been released as of yet, and the team did not comment due to the fact that legal proceedings are involved.
The investigation is being handled by Panthers minority owner Erskine Bowles and the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP.
A team spokesperson offered the following statement to ESPN on Friday:
“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 81-year-old Richardson is the only owner the Panthers have ever had, using the money he amassed in the food service industry. He’s also the rare former NFL player to have successfully transitioned to team ownership, playing two seasons for the then-Baltimore Colts and even hauling in a playoff touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas.
Until details about the specific workplace misconduct become public, nothing but speculation is possible about the allegations against Richardson, but placed against the backdrop of what’s been happening around the U.S. as of late, it’s hard to imagine they aren’t somehow related to sexual harassment.