Tournament week and Tiger Woods came to Quail Hollow just in time for Jerry Richardson. And possibly a few other people.
Another shoe had just dropped in the matter of The Man Called “Mister.” One of the women paid by the Panthers’ owner for her silence about his sexual advances and general creepiness had gotten fed up with the NFL’s pussy-footing investigation of The Big Cat and decided to give Sports Illustrated proof.
She released notes he had written about “pampering” and “lotion” and “pleasure.” Some of the notes had little hearts drawn on them.
She described physical harassment. She stated Richardson rubbed her legs “from toe to crotch” and brushed against her breasts as he buckled her seat belt.
Her revelations of repugnant behavior were backed up by photos of the notes.
Richardson was known as a note-sender, and as a businessman would also have signed plenty of paperwork. You can bet a lot of powerful people saw those notes and decided in a flash what had come out about him was true.
So what should have come next? A long look in the mirror by a whole lot of people over their role in this sorry, sordid story.
That’s right – their role.
Look at the media, particularly sports-types across the media spectrum. Aren't they supposed to be asking questions and questioning answers — "afflicting the comfortable" on their beats as legendary newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne wrote in 1893? I've lived in five major-sports cities and have said for my 16 years here that I've never seen sports media kowtow to a team owner as Charlotte's historically has to Jerry Richardson.
Look at how Charlotte GuvCo forever fawned over him for locating his franchise here.
Look at the reverence for Richardson from so many football people; players, coaches, other owners. The league office.
Look at all the powerful people who genuflected — or cowered — in front of Jerry Richardson’s status and authority. He packed an implied threat toward any who might challenge him. Remember how he verbally smacked Peyton Manning during contract negotiations? If he’ll treat a future Hall of Fame quarterback that way he’ll treat anyone that way.
Power. Total power. One of the most powerful owners, we were endlessly told. The most powerful man in the sports business in the Carolinas (Sorry, Bruton).
The truth about Jerry Richardson that came so instantly and irrefutably clear through those notes had to have been a piercing shot to the conscience of all the Charlotte media, government, and business-types who’d ever bought into the Cult of Mister and yielded to Richardson the power he enjoyed. The power with impunity he wielded widely, including over women who worked for him.
There was about to be — I could feel it, early the afternoon the latest Richardson news broke — the start of some self-reckoning in Charlotte.
Then a few hours later came the joyous news that Tiger Woods would play in the Wells Fargo tournament. The Richardson story quickly became a sidebar. Any self-examination simmering in the city cooled.
A Halleluiah chorus could be heard from Quail Hollow to uptown to Mint Street.