An unnamed former Panthers employee spoke out about her allegations that owner Jerry Richardson sexually harassed her in an open letter published in Sports Illustrated Thursday.
The Sports Illustrated article is titled “My Truth in Letters” and was written by a former employee who wished to remain anonymous, but signed the letter “Sincerely, A Jerry Richardson Victim Still Too Afraid.” The former employee said she worked for the football side of the franchise.
According to the publication, the employee wrote the letters because she was frustrated by the slow pace of the NFL’s investigation into Richardson and was motivated to speak out following Houston Texans owner Bob McNair’s remarks that the Panthers' owner was unfairly targeted.
The former employee wrote a series of six different letters addressed to Bob McNair, the National Football League, “enablers” (including the team’s general counsel, former and current directors, and upper management), head coach Ron Rivera, Richardson and the “future owner of the Carolina Panthers.”
In the letters, she called the NFL’s investigation “a farce.” She said that even though she told Mary Jo White, the independent investigator hired to look into the claims against Richardson, that she was “willing to cooperate with the investigation,” she was unable to share her story out of fear of violating the non-disclosure agreement she signed when she reached a financial settlement with the team. She also accused the organization of not caring about her “truth” because they could not protect her from the penalties of breaking the NDA, and of being an “enabler” of sexual harassment.
“Throughout the many years I was sexually harassed by Jerry Richardson, I always believed that there was no one above him, no one whom I could tell, without repercussions, what was happening to me,” the former employee said. “You proved me right. You have now become another enabler.”
The former employee also included pictures of suggestive notes she claimed were written by Richardson – notes that request specific adjustments to her appearance with cash that she could use for “pampering,” and express a desire to intimately touch her. She said that Richardson gave her those notes and then insisted she destroy them. According to Sports Illustrated, the former employee included the notes in order to “undercut” suggestions that Richardson’s comments were made in jest or could be misunderstood. The publication also said that it gave the Panthers and Richardson an opportunity to review the notes and verify their legitimacy, but did not receive a response from the team.
You can read the full series of letters here.
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The team released a statement on Twitter Thursday saying that the franchise cannot comment on specifics of the allegations, but is taking the investigation seriously. The organization also said that since bringing on its new chief operating officer, Tina Becker, the franchise has devoted significant resources toward remediating misconduct and “reforming [the] workplace” to “ensure a safe and comfortable work environment.”
You can read the Panther’s full statement here.
Following professional misconduct allegations in December 2017, Richardson announced his decision to sell the team. Prospective buyers are still preparing bids and Richardson has selected an unnamed favorite, according to reporting by the Charlotte Observer. Bids are expected to top $2.5 million, possibly making the team the most expensive franchise in American sports history.