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Carolina Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson Says He Will Sell Team

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson watches the action during the first half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Green Bay Packers in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday.

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he would put his team up for sale at the end of the season after the National Football League said it was opening an investigation into accusations of workplace misconduct against him.

"I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson, 81, said in a statement on the team's website. "Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the end of this NFL season."

Two days ago, the team said it was conducting an internal investigation into Richardson's conduct, but did not specify the nature of the allegations. Sports Illustrated says they include sexual harassment of multiple female employees and a racial slur.

Hours before Richardson's announcement on Sunday, NFL.com reported that the league was opening its own investigation into the allegations.

In the statement on Friday announcing the internal investigation, the Panthers said the team was "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."

The Panthers announced that former White House chief of staff to President Clinton, Erskine Bowles — who is a minority owner of the team — would oversee the investigation by law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan.

SI, quoting unnamed sources, detailed what it claims were inappropriate comments made by Richardson about how female employees fit into their jeans, as well as "Multiple female employees [recalling] to SI that Richardson asked them if he could personally shave their legs," the magazine said.

" ... on multiple occasions when Richardson's conduct has triggered complaints—for sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at an African American employee—he has taken a leaf from a playbook he's deployed in the past: Confidential settlements were reached and payments were made to complainants, accompanied by non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses designed to shield the owner and the organization from further liability and damaging publicity," according to SI.

Following Richardson's announcement of the team's impending sale, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry both issued tweets saying they were interested in buying.

ESPN writes: "Richardson was awarded the franchise in October 1993. The Panthers played their first season in 1995. Richardson previously had a plan in place that called for the team to be sold within two years of his death. Richardson reached a deal with Charlotte officials in 2013, when the city agreed to pay $87.5 million in upgrades to Bank of America Stadium that would keep the Panthers there through June 2019."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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