Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced earlier this month that he’ll be selling the team he founded, just hours after a thoroughly reported Sports Illustrated story was published detailing years of sexual harassment, by Richardson toward team employees.
At least four employees agreed to “significant” monetary settlements because of Richardson’s behavior toward them, including one former team scout at whom Richardson directed a racial slur.
But Panthers coach Ron Rivera is sticking by the disgraced owner.
During his postgame speech to players on Sunday, after Carolina clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rivera told players, “Just remember guys, this is about team. Everything we do is about team. The most important thing is about team, OK? All right, do me a favor – ‘Mr. Richardson’ on three. 1-2-3!”
The video was posted on the team website.
While the move has drawn some criticism, given the nature of the accusations against Richardson, but on Tuesday, Rivera defended his decision to use the disgraced owner as a rallying cry.
“What I’ve always said is I know nothing about that. I can only speak for what he has been to me and the players,” Rivera said Tuesday. “And that’s why I did it.”
(Loose translation: I’ve never been sexually harassed, so who cares?)
Numerous women allege that on Fridays, when employees at the team facility can wear jeans, the owner would walk through the office and ask women to turn around so he could admire their rear end and says things like, “Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up.”
Other women said that Richardson, after exchanging handwritten notes that at times would include some money from Richardson and a directive to buy themselves a new dress or get their nails done, would ask if he could personally shave their legs.
There were still other stories of Richardson’s “seatbelt maneuver,” when he would invite a female employee to lunch off-campus, and after she was seated in the car, he’d reach across to fasten her seatbelt for her, brushing her breasts in the process.
After announcing that the franchise will be sold, Richardson also relinquished his day-to-day duties to chief operating officer Tina Becker. But he was in his suite on Christmas Eve for the Panthers’ game against Tampa Bay.
Rivera was asked how he’ll respond if Richardson asks to address the team in the coming weeks, as the regular season turns to the postseason.
“He’s still the owner. So we’ll go from there,” Rivera said. “I can’t assume what he wants to do. But at the end of the day he’s still the owner.”
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