Jerry Richardson’s abrupt decision to sell the Carolina Panthers took the NFL world by surprise, including his fellow owners. And one of the most influential of those is going to be sorry to see Richardson go.
“I’m very sad,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday evening. “Jerry is one of the really, really, really outstanding men of football that I’ve ever met, and I really admire him. I know that he made it the old-fashioned way. He worked for it. He took what he made in a short time in pro football and turned it into a great business and then used that to get the Carolina franchise. So he’s a great story.”
He’s a great story, but he’s also the focus of multiple workplace harassment allegations that were apparently serious enough that he decided to sell the Panthers in the space of 72 hours. Sports Illustrated published an in-depth look at Richardson’s conduct in the halls of Panthers HQ, conduct that included sizing up female employees’ figures in jeans and highly questionable commentary about and at African-Americans, then allegedly paying settlements to resolve and conceal complaints. “Mister,” as everyone in the Panthers organization called Richardson, has apparently lived his life one way even as the rest of society has trended another, very different way.
“He’ll be the first to tell you he’s had a blessed life,” Jones said. “I’m really sad. I want all of those kind of men we can have in the National Football League.” It’s entirely up to you to read Jones’ line about “all those kind of men” however you wish.
Richardson may be pulling the ripcord on the NFL to avoid a situation like the one that befell Donald Sterling, another man from a bygone era who saw his name and reputation shredded after revelations about his conduct while owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Richardson was already the target of an NFL investigation into his workplace, and selling the team might be enough to get the league off his back.
The NFL ownership fraternity is an exclusive group of billionaires, and it stands to reason that they’d protect one another in the face of any challenge. What will be fascinating to watch is how the owners are able to stand up to the NFL as it is today: challenges from all sides, hitting all at once.
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