Longtime Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced his plans Sunday to sell the team after the NFL revealed it was launching an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct.
Richardson, 81, in a statement wrote, "I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership."
"Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the end of this NFL season," he added.
What is the backstory?
The team revealed Sunday the opening of an internal investigation of Richardson's reported conduct after a Friday report by Sports Illustrated was published.
Sports Illustrated reported that investigators would be looking into allegations of sexual harassment — as well as the reported use of a racial slur — brought against Richardson.
According to Sports Illustrated's anonymous sources, Richardson reportedly made inappropriate comments to and about female employees of the franchise:
On multiple occasions when Richardson's conduct has triggered complaints — for sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at an African American employee — he has taken a leaf from a playbook he's deployed in the past: Confidential settlements were reached and payments were made to complainants, accompanied by non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses designed to shield the owner and the organization from further liability and damaging publicity.
A portion of the team's Sunday statement said that the Panthers were "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."
Hours prior to Richardson's announcement, which was shared on the team's website, NFL.com reported that the league was taking over the investigation into the allegations.
Richardson was awarded the Panthers' franchise in October 1993. The Panthers played their first season in 1995. During Richardson's tenure, Carolina has reached the NFL playoffs seven times, including twice to the Super Bowl, losing in 2004 and 2016.
What have people said?
ESPN reported that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday said, "For me, I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson. But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, according to the team's website, said that the investigation would need to take its course.
"I really have no comment on it other than to say there's an investigation that's going to go on," Rivera explained. "We'll let it take its course, let it go through the process."
"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera added. "A lot of you know I had a house fire, and he was there for [my wife] Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed, and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that."