Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced that he would sell the team at the conclusion of the season. Sunday morning, a report surfaced, in which Richardson settled numerous sexual harassment lawsuits. In addition, he directed racial slurs towards Black employees. However, what fascinates me is the respect Richardson garnered after the story broke.
According to SI, Richardson’s employees regarding him as just a funny, “creepy old man”. In what profession does an owner get to ask women if the wiggled to put on their jeans? Richardson skated on the harmless old person stereotype for years. Age is not a disqualifying factor for creating a weird workplace. Yet, here we are. Owners line up to pay their respect to Richardson. Someone settles numerous harassment claims and his contemporaries celebrate him. Only NFL owners, with their unfettered autonomy enjoy that luxury. To be clear, Jerry Richardson took advantage of his position to humiliate employees. Selling the Panthers is his way of staying one step ahead of the bad press. Before anyone makes him a martyr, see him for what he is.
If you listen to those who know him, Richardson is “old school”. To most, that is a nice way of stating rigid beliefs. For example, when the Panthers drafted Cam Newton, Richardson asked Newton to stay tattoo free with a shorter haircut. Players play, owners own. How a player looks should not fall under the direction of any owner. If Tom Brady, who wears longer hair, played in Charlotte, would Richardson ask him to cut it?
A Sunken Place
The SI report features a quote from an anonymous Carolina employee. The former Panthers staff member referred to Richardson as “Mister”. No, not Mister Richardson, just “Mister”, which remains odd. Defenders will say Richardson’s age (81) plays a role. No, adults called him Mister. That plantation mentality should alarm everyone with a brain. Yet, some excuse that, based on age. How many self-respecting adults lined up to kiss his ring every day? On the whole, Richardson did whatever he chose, paying out settlements that never saw daylight.
From seeking foot rubs to employees to massaging them, Richardson commanded a creepy empire. How did the employees not say anything sooner? Years elapse and folks accepted this as normal? No paycheck is ever worth dehumanizing conditions. Yet, this is not about shaming victims. The real problem resides with the NFL. With all the leaks on Park Avenue, how does this not find its way to the public sooner? All things considered, the owners maintain absolute , unchecked power over America’s most popular sport.
Code of Silence
Anyone sitting with any owners, probably heard whispers. The galling part is that no owner did anything to curb this behavior. Having billions does not entitle anyone to get over on employees, nor does it? As a result or media, fawning and power-wielding, NFL owners seem above reproach. By weaponizing media access, the NFL controls the narrative. Besides, Richardson’s actions did not affect their bottom line. After all, ownership is a job. Be that as it may, employees have a right to work in a better environment.
For all of Richardson’s creepy, weird, and utterly disturbing peccadilloes, he cannot be the only one. That is not to say that other owners engage in lewd or criminal behavior, but what secrets reside below the surface? The time of the report’s release and the decision to sell happened less than one day. Therefore, either more exists to this story or the owners want to cut Richardson out now. Above all, owners protect each other. With that said, what other perversions exist? Moreover, how many nameless victims of owner misdeeds live heir lives in complete silence?
As a result of this episode, I feel for the Panther faithful, the fans. They do not deserve national ridicule. Jerry Richardson made his bed, and tried to get others to share it. By no means, should that fall upon the fans. In a season, where the Panthers look poised to make postseason noise, Richardson casts an unfortunate shadow. Fans deserve better. In spite of on-field success, a sale obscures some of the joy. In the event the Panthers reach the Super Bowl, this topic will resurface.
Immediately, Diddy threw his hat into the ring as a potential owner. We can stop that right now. Diddy’s arrest record and sketchy past will scare off the owners in a heartbeat. First, the involvement in a shooting that wounded three people will scare everyone. People forget the 90s ever happened. The league prides itself of family entertainment. Having an owner that was not shy around gunfire does not fit the model. Not to mention, the good ol’ boy network still exists. Equally important, when will the league accept a Black owner?
In essence, Jerry Richardson will depart with at least a billion dollars. In addition, the only ones that receive any punishment were the victims, fans and anyone who questioned the process. Richardson walks away from deplorable behavior without consequence. The league will perform a shallow investigation and do little, if anything to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, Richardson can look at his statue. In the NFL, character takes a back seat to finance. Otherwise, how can they protect the shield so forcefully? For this reason, Richardson’s deeds will fade into obscurity.