Shortly after a news report detailed allegations of misconduct, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced he will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of this NFL season.
On Sunday, Sports Illustrated published a report indicating that at least four former Panthers employees were given monetary settlements after coming forward with complaints concerning inappropriate workplace comments and conduct on the part of Richardson. SI’s report described the settlements as “significant,” and stated that they were attached to non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses. The Panthers launched an internal investigation on the matter, but the NFL confirmed on Sunday that it was taking over the investigation.
Not long after the report surfaced, Richardson issued a statement that said he will now seek to sell the Panthers. Within his statement, Richardson–who did not address the allegations–indicated that the sale process will not begin until after the Panthers have played their final game of the season. More from The Charlotte Observer:
“I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership. Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of this NFL season. We will not begin the sale process, nor will we entertain any inquiries, until the very last game is played. I hope everyone in this organization will be firmly focused on just one mission: To play and win the Super Bowl.”
Richardson’s statement did not address the allegations of misconduct.
A Sports Illustrated report released right before Sunday’s kickoff against Green Bay detailed the alleged “significant” monetary settlements with at least four former Carolina Panthers employees as a result of inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by Richardson.
The conduct, the news outlet reported, included “sexually suggestive language and behavior, and on at least one occasion directing a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout.”
With the sale process set to begin in the near future, the Panthers’ long-term status in Charlotte and at Bank of America Stadium will be one area that is watched. Through a 2013 agreement with the Charlotte City Council, the Panthers received $87.5 million in public funds that included $75 million for stadium upgrades. The Panthers have since completed several renovations at Bank of America Stadium, and the deal includes a six-year “hard tether” that locks the team into Charlotte and the facility through the 2018 season.
While the Panthers are planning to move forward with an additional phase of upgrades, the hard teather for Bank of America Stadium does not extend beyond June 2019. More from The Charlotte Observer:
If the team leaves after June 2019, the contract says the city would have either the option of buying the stadium for $1 or the Panthers would pay the city the remaining debt payment on the city’s $75 million investment.
The city didn’t have exact numbers of how much debt is remaining. The Panthers still plan on spending $7 million of the $75 million in the off season on improvements.
Ron Kimble, a former deputy city manager who negotiated the original “hard tether,” said the city has been paying off the debt at about $7.5 million a year. That means there would be about $35 million to $40 million left on the debt.
If an owner did seek to move the team, that remaining debt would likely be an insignificant amount of money. The NFL requires teams that move to pay a relocation fee that can exceed $500 million.
Richardson has owned the Panthers throughout their history. The club played its inaugural 1995 season at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, before moving into Bank of America Stadium in 1996.
Image of Bank of America Stadium courtesy Carolina Panthers.