And just like that, he’s gone.
Jerry Richardson on Monday surrendered day-to-day control of the Carolina Panthers to focus on selling the team. In less than 72 hours, the Big Cat went from “Mister” to Man Without a Country.
The Carolinas may have seen its last of Richardson in public.
Every move since word reached Panthers HQ that a story about sexual harassment and racial discrimination claims was percolating at Sports Illustrated has borne one intent: Keep Richardson from having to answer for, or even explicitly acknowledge, any charges.
His first play was to announce an internal investigation into “allegations of workplace misconduct,” a college-sports-styled bid to get ahead of the story that was coming and NFL probe that would surely follow. That Panthers co-owner Erskine Bowles would handle the investigation failed the smell test. The league announced it would take over.
The SI story broke at game time Sunday. The allegations were unquestionably serious and bizarrely juvenile.
Richardson was said to have made women in the office turn around so he could admire their backsides.
“Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up,” was reportedly a stock Richardson line.
Wasn’t Butt-Wiggle Friday a Howard Stern thing?
SI said Richardson had become known for what multiple women called the “seat belt maneuver.”
He would invite female employees to lunch, open the car door, and under his gallant guise insist on fastening their seat belts. This allowed him to reach across their lap and brush his hand over their breasts.
That move works! I remember it.
I was 16.
Then, this: “Multiple female employees told SI Richardson asked them if he could personally shave their legs.”
What!? That puts Richardson right up there with infamous toe fetish guy and former Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris.
From the announcement of the investigation Friday through the breaking of the SI story, neither Richardson nor the Panthers denied wrongdoing. In a five-paragraph statement Sunday night, Richardson admitted everything without admitting anything with the stunning announcement that he would sell the team.
Richardson said the selling would commence after this season’s last game had been played. If he thought announcing the sale would stop or stall the NFL, he was wrong.
On Monday, the league said the investigation will move forward. Richardson placed his team in the hands of a longtime employee turned executive/confidant to put his entire focus into selling. It’s clear why. The league can investigate and the league can reveal, but if Richardson simply and now swiftly sells the Panthers, the league can’t make him talk about any of it.
The Carolina Panthers legacy of Jerry Richardson took decades to build but only a weekend to come crashing down. He decided in a span of hours to sell the team rather than do the one thing he has never been willing to do for anyone:
Observer contributor Keith Larson can be heard on “The Larson Page” weekdays at Noon on AM 730 Radio Charlotte, and TheLarsonPage.com
A column in Saturday’s Observer overstated the number of slaves that came to America from Goree Island. Historians estimate about 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. A fraction of those went to North America and a tiny fraction passed through the Door of No Return at Goree.