Less than an hour before the Carolina Panthers took to the field on Sunday to face the Green Bay Packers, a blockbuster Sports Illustrated story was published that detailed multiple instances of workplace misconduct by team owner Jerry Richardson. Then hours after the game, an eventual 31-24 Panthers victory that Richardson attended, Richardson announced via a team statement that he would be selling the team at the end of the NFL season.
And now at least one other notable team owner is speaking out about it.
After the Dallas Cowboys beat the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked about Richardson’s decision to sell the team. Jones and Richardson have long been two of the league’s more recognizable owners, having both played key roles in negotiating the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement in 2011. Jones had been the Cowboys owner for just six years when Richardson’s expansion bid for the Panthers was underway.
“I’m sad. I’m very sad,” Jones said. “Jerry was one of the most really, really, really outstanding men of football that I’ve ever met. And I really admire him. I know he made it the old fashion way; he worked for it. And 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 it’s a great story.”
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In Richardson’s statement that announced he would sell the team at the end of the 2017-2018 NFL season, there is no mention of the current allegations against the 81-year old Panthers owner. Richardson founded the Panthers as an expansion team in 1995, and he is the team’s only owner.
“I’m saddened by any of the stories or the things that might have instigated this at this time,” Jones said. “He’s a battler. He’s a big man with a big heart. By the way, that’s somebody else’s heart. He’s had a heart transplant.”
Richardson’s health problems have been well-documented in recent years, and he had previously said he wanted the team to be sold within two years of his death.
But in light of these allegations, that decision to sell the team has come sooner than Richardson might have intended.
Jones dealt with a somewhat similar misconduct issue of his own in 2014 when a stripper accused him of sexual assault, although the lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
“He’d be the first to tell you he’s had a blessed life,” Jones said. “But I’m really sad. I want all of those kind of men we could have in the National Football League.”