Panthers owner faces league probe of misconduct allegations

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is seen on the field before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers December 14, 2014

The NFL is taking over an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct by Carolina Panthers owner and founder Jerry Richardson, US media reported Sunday.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Charlotte Observer that the NFL will retain an outside counsel to conduct its probe.

The announcement comes two days after the team said they had opened an investigation into the allegations, which have not been detailed publicly by the Panthers or the league.

"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," team spokesman Steven Drummond said Friday in a statement.

"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."

The Panthers said the investigation of allegations against 81-year-old Richardson was being led by law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP.

That would have seen Panthers minority owner and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles overseeing the probe, which will now be handled solely by the NFL.

Richardson, who played for the Baltimore Colts in 1959-60, became the first former NFL player since George Halas to own an NFL team when he was awarded an expansion franchise on October 26, 1993.

He is one of only two NFL owners to have owned a club since its inception. The other is Bob McNair of the Houston Texans.

Sports Illustrated, citing unnamed sources, reported Sunday that Richardson and the Panthers reached financial settlements with at least four former employees over sexual harassment of women and the use of a racial slur.