The NFL took a break from enforcing their kneeling ban to address workplace misconduct. Former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was ordered by the league to pay a hefty fine for harassment on Thursday (June 28).
Richardson was fined $2.75 million — the highest amount ever imposed by the NFL — for sexual and racial harassment after a months-long probe by former U.S. Attorney-turned-independent investigator Mary Jo White. The ex-owner’s misconduct came to light in a Sports Illustrated article last December that revealed Richardson paid financial settlements to at least four former employees. When the article broke, Richardson announced that he would sell the Panthers — a team that both Stephen Curry and Sean “Diddy” Combs expressed interest in buying. David Tepper purchased the team in a sale that is expected to close in two weeks, according to the NFL.
Though Richardson has been fined and is out of the Panthers, improper workplace conduct still remains a huge issue. The NFL fine comes as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to embolden women to come forward about misconduct.
Several incidents of misconduct created an uncomfortable environment for women, including Richardson sending suggestive notes about “pampering” female staffers by “rubbing their feet.” He also used a racial slur in referring to a Black scout. Members of the Panthers organization were unaware of Richardson’s misconduct and the settlements, according to the league, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Former assistant coach Curtis Fuller resigned in May after his inappropriate electronic communications with female staff members were exposed, the Observer also reported. The details of the messages were not disclosed but the “volume of communications,” not the content, was said to be the central issue, according to the outlet.
In a release announcing Richardson’s fine, the NFL announced that they have changed their anti-harassment and discrimination policy and ramped up workplace training for employees. The league also said that the money Richardson will hand over will go to organizations that address race and gender-based issues, including the Charlotte-based Beauty for Ashes Ministry.
However, more can be done, social media users said. Some Twitter users called for Richardson’s statue to be taken down outside of the Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte, while others called for a boycott of the NFL.