NFL fines Panthers owner Jerry Richardson $2.75M

CHARLOTTE, NC (WWAY) — The NFL has fined Panthers owner Jerry Richardson $2.75 million after a league investigation into workplace misconduct allegations against him.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today announced the findings and conclusions in the investigation conducted by former US Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White, who Goodell appointed to serve as an independence investigator in December after the allegations came to light.

Richardson later announced he would sell the team. NFL owners last month unanimously approved the $2.2 billion sale of the team to David Tepper. The sale is expected to close next month.

A Sports Illustrated report in December detailed numerous allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior by Richardson, including unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that at least four employees got settlements with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

According to a statement from the NFL, White’s investigation resulted in a detailed understanding of the scope and substance of the claims made by current and former Panthers employees.

“The findings and recommendations that I have shared with the Commissioner are the product of an extensive review, including interviews with club executives, current and former employees, analysis of documents, electronic records, and other sources of information,” White said. “I particularly appreciate the work of the club employees in assessing the need for enhancing the club’s workplace policies, procedures, and training and implementing appropriate changes.”

According to the league’s statement:

First, the review identified each of the allegations that has been publicly reported as well as similar matters that have not been the subject of public discussion.

Second, while the investigation was not limited to the matters that have been publicly reported, and did not seek to confirm or reject the details of each specific allegation made regarding Mr. Richardson, it did substantiate the claims that have been made, and identified no information that would either discredit the claims made or that would undermine the veracity of the employees who have made those claims.

Third, the improper conduct was limited to Richardson. No other employee of the Panthers is alleged to have engaged in such conduct, and the review did not discover evidence of similar conduct by other employees of the club.

Fourth, the investigation also confirmed that the Panthers and its ownership did not report the claims, or any agreements to resolve those claims, to the League Office and that neither the League Office nor the club’s limited partners were aware of these matters until they became public in December of 2017. Based on White’s findings, the Commissioner has imposed a fine on Richardson of $2.75 million, most of which will be used to support the work of organizations dedicated to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside of the workplace.

Initial commitments have been made to the following organizations:

White has also made a number of specific recommendations regarding issues of workplace conduct at the Panthers and has advised the Commissioner that the Panthers have recently developed and implemented enhanced policies, procedures, and training. For example, the club has now implemented a robust anti-harassment and discrimination policy and retained outside experts to do workplace training throughout the club. White advised the Commissioner that these steps, in conjunction with a strong and supportive ownership, should go a long way both to avoiding a recurrence of the problems that her review found to have occurred in the past and to enhance what is already for many employees a positive workplace. White recommended that the Panthers be required to report by the end of the year on the club’s ongoing work on its internal workplace policies and procedures that address claims of racial discrimination, sexual harassment and related workplace issues, and the Commissioner has adopted that recommendation. In addition, White has made a number of recommendations of broader applicability for the League, which will be presented to the Conduct Committee for consideration in advance of the 2018 season.

Those recommendations include:

— A specific prohibition of using Non-Disclosure Agreements to limit reporting of potential violations or cooperation in League investigations under the Personal Conduct Policy.

— A specific requirement that claims of workplace misconduct issues be reported to the League Office under the Personal Conduct Policy.

— Establish a hotline or other system to allow League and club employees to report issues of workplace conduct on a confidential basis.

— Review workplace best practices and policies with owners, club counsel, and club human resource executives.

White has separately briefed incoming Panthers owner David Tepper on her investigation.

“I appreciate Mary Jo White’s careful and thorough examination of these issues, and her thoughtful recommendations to the Panthers and the entire NFL,” Goodell said in a statement. “Her recommendations will help ensure that our workplaces are open, inclusive and respectful.”

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