The NFL’s 32 teams are some of the most valuable assets in sports, and they rarely change hands.
Yet just two days after the Carolina Panthers said they would investigate their owner, who was accused of what the team called “workplace misconduct,” an NFL franchise will be put on the open market by its longtime owner, Jerry Richardson. The only principal owner the team has ever had, Richardson has become the latest formidable figure to fall amid the rising sensitivity and anger around sexual harassment.
In recent months, accusations of sexual harassment have taken down titans in Hollywood and the media world. The issue arrived at the NFL’s doorstep last week when a former wardrobe stylist for NFL Network leveled accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, leading to the suspension of six employees.
Then on Friday, the Panthers said they had hired lawyers to look into accusations against Richardson, the team’s founding owner. On Sunday, the NFL said it would take over the investigation. Hours later, Richardson announced he would sell the team.
In a statement, Richardson said the sales process would commence after the season. He will not entertain any inquiries before the last game has been played. Richardson made no reference to the allegations against him or the league’s investigation into those claims.
“I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership,” Richardson said.
The NFL has not said whether it will drop its investigation.
At 81, Richardson has controlled the team for nearly a quarter-century, having bought the franchise when it was created in 1993. For years, Richardson held sway over many important committees, and was an influential player in the league’s latest labor deal, which came after the owners locked out the players for several months in 2011.
Though he has stepped back from the league’s affairs in recent years, he continues to have many allies among his fellow owners, and he is the only current owner who also played in the NFL.
Richardson had previously said that the team would be sold when he died.
According to Forbes, the Panthers are worth $2.3 billion.