Friday, the Carolina Panthers notified the NFL they were internally investigating allegations of workplace misconduct by the team’s principal owner Jerry Richardson. The news was publicly confirmed by a press release, immediately leading to concerns about the optics and ethical integrity of a franchise investigating itself for potentially serious charges.
The Panthers’ statement from Friday noted the internal probe would be led by former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles with assistance from a Los Angeles-based law firm. What wasn’t included in the statement was that Bowles was listed as one of the Panthers’ minority owners as recently as 2015. According to the New York Times, Bowles is still a minority owner of the franchise.
That’s a decidedly bad look given how the team was perceived as being slow to suspend then-Panthers lineman Greg Hardy while he was facing disturbing domestic abuse allegations in 2014.
As for the more pressing matter of Richardson’s suspension, the Panthers conveniently released the statement about their internal probe days before Sports Illustrated was about to spill some tea about the exact nature of Richardson’s alleged misconduct.
“At least four former Panthers employees have received ‘significant’ monetary settlements due to inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by owner Jerry Richardson, including sexually suggestive language and behavior,” noted a Sports Illustrated report by L. Jon Wertheim and Viv Bernstein published Sunday. “And on at least one occasion [Richardson was] directing a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout.”