NFL sends strong message with Jerry Richardson fine

Carolina Panthers

The National Football League has fined former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson $2.75 million for workplace misconduct.

After an investigation into former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and his alleged workplace misconduct, the NFL has fined Richardson $2.75 million. Richardson, who sold the team to former Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner David Tepper on May 16, won’t have any issue paying the steep price, but the message sent is an important one.

The NFL has long taken justified criticism for its lack of punishment when women have been the victims. Richardson, according to both Sports Illustrated and a letter from a female Panthers employee, also published in SI, was sexually aggressive during his tenure as the team owner. There were alleged instances of Richardson commenting on women’s bodies, asking them to wiggle in their jeans. It was also alleged that Richardson used a racial slur directed towards an African American employee.

This investigation by former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chairman Mary Jo White also led to suggested steps for the NFL to adopt as league-wide policy. These include a hotline being set up for league employees to make confidential complaints about their treatment. White also suggested the prohibition of Non-Disclosure Agreements in an effort to make the Personal Conduct Policy stronger.

While the NFL has a long way to go in respect to fixing its image with the treatment of women by its employees and employers, this is an important step. The first move should be to take White up on her suggestions. The second should be to review all clubs more rigorously and continuously, not just when complaints are filed.

If commissioner Roger Goodell can take those actions, the league and those working in it will be better off both in the short and long term. If not, the fine is nothing more than a small bit of change in Richardson’s pocket, with the greater message going underserved.

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