The NFL had quite a weekend for itself. There was the Pats-Steelers game opening those old “was it a catch” wounds. And while there’s nothing as tired and overused as the phrase “hold my beer,” but it really is like the Cowboys-Raiders game saw the Pats-Steelers game and said, hold my beer. Because they had not one, but two bizarre moments. There was Gene Steratore busting out some paper to measure for a first down in the Cowboys-Raiders game, which was weird and embarrassing. You know what’s weirder than still measuring for first downs with two sticks and some chain? Measuring for first downs with two sticks, some chain, and a piece of paper. Some popsicle sticks and string didn’t want any of that?
And then the game ending on this play from Derek Carr:
If the catch rule is the most confusing part of the NFL rulebook, the touchback fumble rule, where the defense gets the ball back on a play where they don’t actually recover it, is one of the wackest.
But all of that pales in comparison to the situation involving Jerry Richardson. The team announced on Friday that they were starting an internal investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct by team owner Jerry Richardson. First, there was a negative reaction from other teams that the Panthers were going to conduct their own investigation into their own owner. And that investigation would have input from Erskine Bowles, who is a minority owner. That led to the league announcing that it would be taking over the investigation.
And then came the report from SI. And it is ugly. Really, really ugly. Jon Wertheim and Viv Bernstein reported that at least four former Panthers employees have reached “significant” monetary settlements “from Richardson or from the team in exchange for what amounted to a vow of silence.” Among the incidents mentioned in the report are what appeared to be a pattern of allegedly asking female employees who were wearing jeans on Fridays to turn around so he could “admire their backsides,” and then making comments about them. Inviting female employees to give him foot rubs. Giving back rubs that “that lingered too long or went too low down the spine.”
The list continues. “Multiple female employees recalled to SI that Richardson asked them if he could personally shave their legs.”
Then there was a repeated move that multiple female employees referred to as the “seatbelt maneuver,” where he’d invite a female employee to lunch and open the car door for them. According to SI, “Once they were seated, however, he would insist on fastening their seatbelt for them, reaching across their lap and brushing his hand across their breasts before putting the belt in the clasp.”
Additionally, there is also an allegation of directing a racial slur at a team scout that led to a settlement. The controversies on the field are bad and will get more attention, but this is worse. So much worse.
Richardson announced yesterday that he’s going to sell the team, a move which was greeted with sadness by Jerry Jones.
The Cowboys owner said after last night’s game, “I’m very sad. Jerry is one of the really, really, really outstanding men of football that I’ve ever met, and I really admire him. I know that he made it the old-fashioned way. He worked for it. He took what he made in a short time in pro football and turned it into a great business and then used that to get the Carolina franchise. So he’s a great story.”
Jones went on to say: “I’m saddened by any of the stories or things that might have incited this at this time. He’s a battler; he’s a big man with a big heart. And by the way, that’s somebody else’s heart — he’s had a heart transplant.”
And also added: “He’ll be the first to tell you he’s had a blessed life. I’m really sad. I want all of those kind of men we can have in the National Football League.”
Uhhh, Jerry? You do know why your buddy is selling the team, right? He’s selling the team because he’s been accused of multiple acts of sexual harassment and at least one incident of a racial slur. Hearing that news and then hyping him as an amazing businessman and better human being isn’t exactly a good look. I get that he might be your friend, but when someone is accused of what he’s been accused of, maybe you don’t say “I’m really sad. I want all of those kind of men we can have in the National Football League.”
Reading that SI article, you don’t want any of those kind of men in the National Football League or any other workplace.
And no, saying “I’m saddened by any of the stories or things that might have incited this at this time” doesn’t really address what he’s been accused of. In fact, it does the exact opposite. It minimizes it and ignores it completely. If your response to the Jerry Richardson accusations is that you’re sad that these “stories” are forcing him to sell his team at what will no doubt result in a massive profit, then you’ve completely missed the point.
And why did this happen as quickly as it did? Probably because he was going to sell the team in the next few years anyway and by getting out in front of it, maybe he thought the league would just kill its investigation into him. But it might not. And it shouldn’t. If you’re going to investigate and discipline your players for misconduct, you better hold your owners to the same standard. And I’m sure he’s not the only owner who demonstrated workplace misconduct. Although he might be the only one who offered to help them with their seat belt and shave their legs. At least I hope so.