I never thought much one way or another about Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson in the past. He was pretty much a non-enmity to me in Southern California. I knew he was rich and that he was the first fellow since the really early years of the NFL to progress, over many years, from player (Rookie of the Year in 1959, though that was the best year of a short career) to team owner. The revelations about him that have come out over the past few days led me to look a little deeper into him, and what I see is disgusting at many, many other levels. What Jerry Richardson is, is a pathetic, egomaniacal racist who places his personal needs and well-being over others who need empathy, sympathy and help from others.
The recently released revelations that led to his withdrawal from management of his team and in putting the team up for sale represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to arrogant and sometimes reprehensible actions on his part.
First, there are those allegations, which were first reported by Sports Illustrated, in an article that began with the following introduction into Richardson’s character:
“Friday was Jeans Day, when most staffers at the Carolina Panthers team offices would wear denim to work. The female employees knew what that meant. As the team’s owner, Jerry Richardson, made his rounds on the way to his spacious office, he would ask women to turn around so he could admire their backsides. Then, in his rolling Southern drawl, he’d offer comment, drawing from a store of one-liners he’d recycle each week. Among those in heaviest rotation: Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up. I bet you had to lay down on your bed to fit into those jeans. Did you step into those jeans or did you have to jump into them?”
SI.com went on to document how Richardson’s conduct triggered numerous complaints
over many years, and that in fact several monetary settlements were paid out settling claims of sexual harassment and at least one triggered by racist slurs. Each of the settlements included both non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses intended to keep Richardson’s actions out of the media and out of the public eye.
Also from the article is this recount of some of his standard operating procedures with female employees:
“Former employees allege that in addition to verbal harassment, Richardson engaged in improper acts. According to sources, on multiple occasions Richardson requested female employees to visit him during a workday in his suite inside Bank of America Stadium. The women would be escorted by Richardson’s assistant, who would then depart, leaving the owner alone with a junior employee. One former female employee recalls Richardson, who stands 6’3″, arriving barefoot and asking for a foot massage. Says one such invitee: “The first time, you thought it was an important meeting with the owner. You [then] realized it was never anything that couldn’t be discussed over the phone.” Others talk of Richardson giving back rubs that lingered too long or went too low down the spine.”
Then there is the issue of racism. Richardson made his billions of dollars in the fast food industry, first as a franchisee of Hardee’s, and then as CEO of Flagstar Inc., owner of among other entities, Denny’s Restaurants. It was under Richardson’s leadership that Denny’s was sued by the US Dept of Justice for racial discrimination based on a slew of incidents at Denny’s locations across the country. Two such incidents made national news. One was the revelation of a company policy effective in numerous locations where black patrons were seated only in specific (segregated) areas of the restaurants and that they were required to pre-pay for their meals. In another incident, in an Annapolis, MD location, a group of Secret Service agents entered the restaurant and the white members of the group were seated and served while the black members of the group were refused a
table. Eventually, Flagstar paid out $54 Million to settle lawsuits filed by thousands of African-American customers against whom the company had discriminated.
Hardee’s and Richardson were sued also around that time by a black women who had risen to general manager at one of their restaurants. She had been criticized by a superior who told he that her restaurant had too many African-American customers, and that it “was filled with monkeys.” Thereafter, she attended a corporate event where Richardson was a speaker, actually on the topic of how the company had addressed such widespread issues of racism. The woman confronted Richardson with details of the incident and the company’s continued racism, and the result was that she was soon fired. She sued the company and Richardson personally and the case was eventually settled for an undisclosed but “not insubstantial” amount.
SI.com went on to detail how Richardson’s continued and pervasive racism was evident throughout his management of the Panthers:
“But multiple former employees told SI that there were also occasional racial overtones in Richardson’s interactions with his workers. Pressed for specifics, they cite everything from Richardson’s expressed preference that black players not wear dreadlocks to an alleged request that an African-American employee apply sunblock to Richardson’s face. After drafting [Cam] Newton in 2011, Richardson memorably asked the player, ‘Did you get crazy after the draft and go out and get any tattoos or piercings? Do I have to check you for anything?’ Earlier this year, some Panthers expressed frustration when Richardson indicated that players addressing social issues could be subject to punishment.”
Recently, the team paid out yet another confidential settlement for Richardson’s vile actions – this time for his having directed a racial slur at a team scout who was African-American.
The egomaniacal Richardson has also done things like have a 13-foot-tall statue of himself erected in front of Panther offices, pay $10 Million for the rights to name the new University of North Carolina at Charlotte football stadium “Jerry Richardson Stadium”, and earlier this year he paid the cost to build “Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium” at his alma matter, Wofford College.
As disgusting as is all of the above, in my mind equally as repugnant is the following. Back in March of 2012, I wrote an article about former Vice-President dick cheney, who despite his overall bad heath and advanced age, had used his political power and wealth to bypass generally established medical standards and protocols to receive a heart transplant at the advanced age of 71.
It seems that you do not have to be politically connected to receive such advantages, so
long as you have a few billion dollars laying around, as does Richardson, who at the age of 75 received a heart transplant, denying one of a significantly limited supply of donated organs to a younger person who almost unquestionably would be living a more valuable life than that of a racist, egomaniacal sexual harasser.
Generally accepted medical protocols followed at transplant facilities across the country and around the world advise that heart transplant recipients should be under 65 years of ago and in almost any case, certainly no older than 70. In the spirit of that embodiment of evil, dick cheney, Richardson paid his way to a life-sustaining transplant years after he had passed a reasonable age for such a procedure.
The NFL will be just a little bit better without Richardson, and so would be the world.