The Carolina Panthers announced Friday the team is conducting an internal investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct against team owner Jerry Richardson.
The specific allegations have not been released and the Panthers say they will not comment on what they are. Richardson has been the majority owner of the Panthers since the team's inaugural season in 1995.
“The Carolina Panthers and Mr. Richardson take these allegations very seriously and are fully committed to a full investigation and taking appropriate steps to address and remediate any misconduct,” said team spokesman Steven Drummond in a statement.
The team says the investigation will be conducted by the international law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a former White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton and former president of the UNC system. He’s also a limited owner of the team.
“Erskine Bowles is a trusted leader of unquestioned integrity. We look forward to this report, which we know will be honest and thorough,” said Drummond. “The entire organization is fully 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. We have work to do to achieve this goal, but we are going to meet it.”
Richardson was unavailable for comment.
The Panthers made the NFL aware on Friday that it has initiated an investigation into Richardson's alleged workplace misconduct.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league has no comment at this time.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a release Friday night that he has had a strong relationship with Richardson since he joined the franchise as coach in 2012.
"I have enormous respect for the man, but will wait for the results of the investigation before making any judgment," Rivera said.
Richardson brought NFL football to the Carolinas in 1993 when he became the first former NFL player since George Halas to own a team.
The Panthers began play two years later in 1995.
The Panthers have made a series of unexpected moves in the last year.
Team president Danny Morrison, who was well liked in the Carolinas, abruptly resigned in February.
Then, as the Panthers were preparing for training camp, Richardson unexpectedly fired general manager Dave Gettleman, who has led the team to the Super Bowl just two years ago and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney. The move was odd considering Carolina has made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.
Hurney did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said he is one of "numerous" former Carolina players who maintains a close relationship with Richardson.
"The only thing I can say is that Mr. Richardson is a gentleman that I have the highest degree of respect for," Delhomme told The Associated Press.
Richardson, who rarely conducts interviews, never addressed the moves.
Richardson was hospitalized 2008, one month after receiving a pacemaker. Richardson underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2002 and was placed on a donor waiting list for a new heart. He received the new heart on Feb. 1, 2009, and has not had any known setbacks since.
He is only one of two owners to have owned a franchise since its inception. The other is Houston's Robert McNair.