Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has announced he will sell the team after this season, a decision that comes two days after an investigation was announced into his alleged workplace misconduct.
Richardson released a statement on the Panthers’ website that said: “I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership.” His statement did not mention the investigation.
On Sunday, Sports Illustrated reported that Richardson and the Panthers had reached settlements with at least four former Panthers employees over complaints of sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur directed at an African American scout. When reached for comment by SI, the Panthers declined to address the details of the report.
According to the report, Richardson asked to see female employees’ backsides on days they wore jeans, brushed his hands across their breasts, and asked if he could shave their legs, among other allegations.
Richardson, 81, is the founder of the Panthers, who played their first season in 1995. The Panthers posted a statement from team spokesman Steven Drummond on their website Friday addressing the news that Richardson would be investigated, but have not made a statement regarding the specific allegations in Sunday’s SI report.
“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 Friday. “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.”
It was announced on Friday that Erskine Bowles, a minority Panthers owner and former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, would oversee the team’s investigation, but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ProFootballTalk on Sunday morning that the league would take over the investigation. It’s unclear how Richardson’s decision to sell the team will affect the investigation, if at all.
The last NFL team to be sold was the Buffalo Bills, who were sold for $1.4 billion in 2014. In 2016, Forbes valued the Panthers at $2.3 billion.