Carolina Panthers secondary coach Curtis Fuller’s resignation Wednesday followed an internal investigation of workplace misconduct, a team spokesman said Friday.
The investigation was prompted by inappropriate electronic communications with female staff members, multiple sources told the Observer.
The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation involved a personnel matter. Fuller sent emails and text messages to an unknown number of female employees on the business side of the organization, the sources said.
The volume of communications, rather than their content, was the central issue, a source told the Observer.
The Observer has learned of one incident last year that the recipient of the communications said was reported to superiors. It is unclear what action was taken.
"After approaching coach Fuller with the findings of an investigation into complaints of inappropriate conduct, we accepted his resignation,'' team spokesman Steven Drummond said in a statement. “The Panthers are deeply committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally."
Fuller’s resignation comes amid an NFL investigation of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who announced he was selling the team in December – hours after an explosive Sports Illustrated article detailed at least four significant settlements made with former employees to settle claims of sexual and racial misconduct against Richardson.
Responding to a question from an Observer reporter Wednesday, Panthers coach Ron Rivera called Fuller’s resignation “a complicated situation.”
Rivera wouldn't comment further, referring the Observer to Fuller.
Fuller has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Fuller, 39, was a defensive back for four seasons in the NFL, including six games with the Panthers in 2004. He joined Rivera’s staff in 2013 as a defensive assistant and worked with the defensive backs in various roles over the next four seasons.
He was named the defensive backs coach in 2017 when Steve Wilks was promoted to defensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, the independent investigation of Richardson – led by former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White – has stretched into its fourth month.
The slow pace of the investigation prompted one of the former Panthers employees to write a series of open letters published by SI last week in which she characterized the Richardson probe as a “farce."
The ex-employee – who was not identified by SI – said she was willing to cooperate with the investigation. But the woman’s attorney was told by White that neither White nor the league could protect her if she breached her non-disclosure agreement that was part of the financial settlement she received as a result of her claims.
In the letter addressed to the NFL, the former Panthers employee – who said she worked on the football side of the business – wrote:
“You say you are doing a thorough investigation of ‘workplace misconduct’ of Jerry Richardson. Through my attorney, I let you know that I am indeed a victim of such ‘misconduct’ and have information for you—but you cannot protect me. Got it. You have zero power, and that makes your investigation a farce.”
The woman also claims Richardson’s personal attorneys informed her lawyer that Richardson had no “intention of turning over any information of signed NDAs” to the league.