The Carolina Panthers paid out significant confidential settlements to at least four former team employees who alleged workplace misconduct on owner Jerry Richardson, according to L. Jon Wertheim and Viv Bernstein of Sports Illustrated.
Some of the complaints leveled at Richardson were for sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at an African American employee.
Per SI: Friday was Jeans Day, when most staffers at the Carolina Panthers team offices would wear denim to work. The female employees knew what that meant. As the team’s owner, Jerry Richardson, made his rounds on the way to his spacious office, he would ask women to turn around so he could admire their backsides. Then, in his rolling Southern drawl, he’d offer comment, drawing from a store of one-liners he’d recycle each week. Among those in heaviest rotation: 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?
In addition to verbal harassment - including commenting on female's backsides during Jeans Day at the Panthers' facility - Richardson consistently "engaged in improper acts."
Sources told Wertheim and Bernstein that Richardson would ask female employees to visit him during a workday in his suite inside Bank of America Stadium, and would often be alone with junior employees. One former female employee alleges that Richardson came into the room barefoot and asked for a foot massage.
"The first time, you thought it was an important meeting with the owner," said one female employee who received such an invite. "You (then) realized it was never anything that couldn’t be discussed over the phone.” Others talk of Richardson giving back rubs that lingered too long or went too low down the spine.
Other multiple former employees told Sports Illustrated that "there were also occasional racial overtones in Richardson’s interactions with his workers."
The Panthers announced they'd launched an internal investigation into Richardson's misconduct Friday, and on Sunday, the team confirmed that the NFL would be taking over the inquiry.