NFL Fines Panthers’ Richardson $2.75M Following Bias Probe

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By Patrick Dorrian

Outgoing Carolina Panthers team owner Jerry Richardson has been fined $2.75 million by the NFL after an investigation conducted by the league substantiated allegations that he engaged in workplace discrimination.

The June 28 announcement of the fine by National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is a victory for the #MeToo movement and civil rights advocates generally as the allegations against Richardson included sexual harassment and racial discrimination. The recommendations of the independent investigator who looked into the allegations include that the NFL adopt a leaguewide prohibition against the use of non-disclosure agreements when workers lodge or resolve job bias complaints.

NDAs are seen by many as an obstacle in the fight to end workplace harassment and unequal pay for women and minorities.

Richardson agreed to sell the Panthers, which he has led since it became a new NFL team in 1995, after the probe into his alleged misconduct was announced. The sale has been approved by the other NFL team owners and is expected to close within the next two weeks, Goodell’s statement said.

Mary Jo White , a former U.S. attorney in Manhattan and ex-SEC chair, led the investigation. She found that the misconduct was limited to Richardson and that there was no evidence any other Panthers employee engaged in similar misconduct, the NFL said. The Panthers have already adopted a “robust anti-harassment and discrimination policy” at White’s suggestion and begun to implement some of the other training and policy recommendations White made for fixing the team’s work environment, the NFL said.

Other leaguewide recommendations made by White include a requirement that all allegations of workplace misconduct involving any of the NFL’s teams be reported to league headquarters and that the NFL establish a telephone hotline that enables employees to report suspected discrimination on a confidential basis. The NFL also should school the owners, legal counsel, and human resources executives of each team on workplace best practices and policies, according to White.

The $2.75 million fine imposed against Richardson will be used to support organizations dedicated to fighting sex- and race-based bias, the NFL said. These include Black Women’s Blueprint and Women of Color Network Inc.

“The Carolina Panthers recently received notice from the NFL that its investigation into workplace misconduct is complete,” the team’s communications manager said in a statement provided to Bloomberg Law June 29. “We cooperated throughout the investigation and have taken proactive steps to address any misconduct. While the investigation has concluded, we remain committed to improving all facets of our organization and fostering an environment in which all of our staff can trust they are safe and valued.”

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