By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) The Carolina Panthers are valued at $2.3 billion, according to Forbes. Jerry Richardson and his family own 48 percent of the team, which works out to more than $1.1 billion. That means that Richardson will profit immensely should he get even close to appraised worth when he sells the Panthers after this football season.
This is the self-imposed punishment for sexual harassment and racism. After a report Sunday morning detailing multiple former Panthers employees alleging discrimination and creepy behavior by Richardson, he announced later that day that he’d be selling the team. That news beat the NFL to its own investigation that it was going to conduct on Richardson and spared us what would’ve been another awkward round of “Roger Goodell Pretends To Care About People.”
And it gets Richardson, an immensely powerful man who abused his power in some of the worst possible ways, no real punishment beyond giving up his favorite toy for gobs of cash. The decent among us can appreciate his victims coming forward and this behavior no longer going unchecked, but a rich guy is still getting much richer because of being a terrible person. He still wins.
The Sports Illustrated report by L. John Wertheim and Viv Bernstein that led to this is full of grossness. Requests for women in Richardson’s office to show him their backsides in jeans and accept his “compliments” of how tight they looked is some of the tamer stuff. Richardson would make comments like: “Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up. I bet you had to lay down on your bed to fit into those jeans. Did you step into those jeans or did you have to jump into them?”
Male employees joking about the harassment with those women is cringeworthy.
Richardson would send notes to female staff with money to buy themselves dresses or massages. Per SI:
One former female employee recalls Richardson, who stands 6’3″, arriving barefoot and asking for a foot massage. Says one such invitee: “The first time, you thought it was an important meeting with the owner. You (then) realized it was never anything that couldn’t be discussed over the phone.” Others talk of Richardson giving back rubs that lingered too long or went too low down the spine.
Richardson would insist on buckling women’s seatbelts for them. He requested to shave their legs for them.
He’ll get a billion dollars for all that.
Multiple former Richardson employees have alleged racist practices by him. Per the report:
Pressed for specifics, they cite everything from Richardson’s expressed preference that black players not wear dreadlocks to an alleged request that an African-American employee apply sunblock to Richardson’s face. After drafting (quarterback Cam) Newton in 2011, Richardson memorably asked the player, “Did you get crazy after the draft and go out and get any tattoos or piercings? Do I have to check you for anything?” Earlier this year, some Panthers expressed frustration when Richardson indicated that players addressing social issues could be subject to punishment.
Here’s Richardson being interviewed by another sexual harasser, Charlie Rose, in which Richardson describes his “reasonable” demands of how Newton handles his own skin and hair.
Richardson also allegedly called a black team scout a racial slur recently before agreeing to a settlement with the scout, who has since left the organization. Richardson has paid off women who have accused him of inappropriate behavior, too. He has a history of racist business practices, owning various restaurant chains and food services that have settled many lawsuits about racial discrimination.
For all this, people actually built him a gauche, dictatorial statue of himself in front of the stadium that he owns for the next few months.
Richardson mocked Peyton Manning’s concerns about player safety over profits during a 2011 collective bargaining negotiation. He flexed his figurative muscle over the city of Charlotte by threatening to take the team elsewhere until voters coughed up $87.5 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium, a common tactic among sports team owners that should always remind all sports fans that it’s the owners who are the least loyal, least humane figures in sports.
In his announcement that he will sell the Panthers, Richardson made no acknowledgment of the allegations or investigation that pushed him to act quickly. He did say that “While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan,” which should make you as weepy as the video from three years ago of Richardson crying while speaking about violence against women that now has quite the different feel (besides him knowingly employing known-abuser Greg Hardy at the time).
And why would he acknowledge what he’s done to all these people? He’s a rich, powerful man about to get richer. A smile will be on that stern, square face of his whenever the check gets cut. Donald Sterling made his fortune off of being a terrible human being, which turned into him being forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers for a paltry $2 billion plus getting the NBA to settle in court with him financially for making him sell. Meanwhile, I’m sure Sterling isn’t really worried about his public image, as I’m sure Richardson isn’t either. This is how a society that inexplicably reveres billionaires punishes those billionaires.
Jerry Richardson lost a football team for dehumanizing people he had power over. But guys like him don’t actually lose.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.