Carolina Panthers

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson stepping aside, effective immediately

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will step down immediately, turning over his role to long-time employee Tina Becker.

Becker, in her 20th year with the team, will take full control of the day-to-day management of the Panthers as chief operating officer.

The announcement came shortly after NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed that the league would continue its investigation into Richardson, following allegations of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

There were questions swirling after Richardson’s bombshell announcement Sunday night that he intends to sell the team after the season. Richardson’s focus will turn to that sale with Becker in control.

One major question was whether the NFL would drop the investigation into the allegations of workplace misconduct against Richardson, which it announced Sunday it would take over from the Panthers’ original internal investigation (announced Friday).

But Richardson’s decision to sell did not affect the league’s determination to investigate the allegations, which were detailed in a Sports Illustrated report released Sunday before Carolina’s game against Green Bay. Monday, the league confirmed the investigation would continue.

The Sports Illustrated report described alleged “significant” monetary settlements with at least four former Carolina Panthers employees as a result of inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by Richardson.

The conduct, the news outlet reported, included “sexually suggestive language and behavior, and on at least one occasion directing a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout.”

SI said the settlements featured nondisclosure agreements forbidding the parties from discussing the matters.

In his five-paragraph statement announcing the sale Sunday night, Richardson said that he would not entertain offers or complete the transaction until after the 2017 season. At 10-4, the Panthers are poised to make a playoff run.

Richardson’s statement did not address the allegations of misconduct or the Sports Illustrated report.

Becker was most recently a member of a six-person team that took the replace-by-committee approach to filling the role of former team President Danny Morrison, who left abruptly in February.

A former Panthers “TopCats” cheerleader, Becker became the group’s coordinator in 1999 and became the Panthers’ director of entertainment from 2012-14.

In 2014, Becker was promoted to executive director of the owner’s office, a role that the Panthers described as one that collaborated with Richardson in executing the organization’s business and executive priorities. She also assisted in day-to-day operations and league affairs.

“These have been some of the most difficult days of my 19 years with the Panthers, but I am lifted up by the strong resolve and the commitment our employees have shown this organization,” she said in a statement released through the team’s website.

“My immediate focus will be to ensure the corporate side of the organization performs at the same high level, while addressing the real concerns that have been raised in recent days.”

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @jourdanrodrigue