The NFL has opted to use outside counsel to run the misconduct probe of outgoing Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson rather than investigating the matter on its own, league spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday.
“This is a broad issue that we think that expertise of an outside firm can bring with many different potential issues we face here,” Lockhart said on conference call. “We just made the judgement that an outside firm is most appropriate.”
The Panthers announced late last week that Richardson was the subject of multiple complaints of alleged workplace misconduct and that an outside firm would handle the investigation. However on Sunday, the league assumed control of the matter. The allegations against Richardson involve sexual harassment of multiple female team employees and racially insensitive remarks toward a former Panthers scout, who is African-American.
“Any time you have allegations of these sorts, it’s something the league takes very seriously,” Lockhart said. “We wanted to make sure that we look into allegations made against the owner and the personnel involved with the team.
"We are always trying to make sure our clubs understand the seriousness of this and are educating on best practices. And part of being serious on that issue when an allegation is raised, is we investigate and get to an answer of what happened.”
Richardson announced through the team website Sunday night that he had decided to sell the team. Lockhart said Richardson made the decision on his own, and that the league received word that he intended to sell the team only a short time before the Panthers made the announcement.
Richardson has also now removed himself from the team's day-to-day operations, and Tina Becker has been named chief operating officer.
Richardson said in Sunday's statement that the selection process for new ownership will not begin until after the completion of the season.
Lockhart said the league prefers to keep the Panthers in Charlotte because the franchise has been successful both on the field and from a business standpoint in the region.