The NFL probably could have let former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson slip off into the night, without ever doing a proper investigation into the alleged workplace harassment that was uncovered last year. After all, Richardson had sold the team and isn’t in the league anymore.
But the league did a full investigation, and hit Richardson hard as he exits the NFL. The league announced Thursday that it found Richardson had engaged in improper workplace conduct and he was fined $2.75 million.
Cynically, that’s a tiny portion of the sale price Richardson got for the Panthers, so it hardly affects his bank account. But it was still a substantial fine, and a statement from the NFL about sexual harassment in the workplace.
NFL’s investigation substantiates claims against Richardson
The story about Richardson’s behavior, which included inappropriate actions of a sexual and racial nature, was published by Sports Illustrated last December. It also said multiple Panthers employees received monetary settlements after being harassed. Very shortly after, Richardson announced he was selling the Panthers, a team he founded, and removing himself from day-to-day operations.
The NFL didn’t let Richardson off just because he said he was going to sell the team. The league started an investigation, conducted by former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chairman Mary Jo White.
The league looked into the claims and was able to “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.” The investigation also noted the Panthers did not report what happened to the NFL.
Richardson’s fine money will be given to specific groups
The $2.75 million will go to “organizations dedicated to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside of the workplace,” the NFL said. From the NFL, here are the first three organizations the league will give money to:
- Beauty for Ashes Ministry, Inc. – This Charlotte, North Carolina organization provides faith-based resources and spiritual support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other trauma and provides training for clergy and lay leaders in these issues.
- Black Women’s Blueprint – This national organization, based in Brooklyn, New York, focuses exclusively on issues of concern to black women, and operates an Institute for Gender and Cultural Competence that delivers prevention education and intervention curricula that addresses the spectrum of discrimination and oppression that affects lives.
- Women of Color Network, Inc. – This national grassroots non-profit organization, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is dedicated to building the leadership and capacity of women of color advocates and activists to respond to violence against women in communities of color through training, technical assistance, and advocacy
Panthers, rest of teams will review workplace policies
The investigation said that while Richardson engaged in inappropriate behavior, no other Panthers employee did. It was Richardson alone who committed the workplace violations, the NFL said. Still, the Panthers have already “developed and implemented enhanced policies, procedures, and training” to avoid a recurrence of the workplace misconduct Richardson was engaged in.
“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,” White said, according to the NFL.
The entire league will see some changes. Teams will be required to review workplace practices. Claims of workplace misconduct issues must be reported to the league under its personal conduct policy, and a hotline will be set up to report issues. It also prohibits non-disclosure agreements, which the Panthers reportedly had used when it gave out the monetary settlements to employees.
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