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NFL takes over probe into misconduct claims against Panthers owner

(Reuters) – The National Football League said on Sunday it has taken over an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct by Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, two days after the team said it was launching an internal probe into the matter.

The Panthers said on Friday an internal investigation was being conducted by the team into the allegations. It would not comment on the nature of the accusations.

On Sunday NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to Reuters that the league would conduct the investigation, confirming reports on NFL.com and other outlets.

While declining to comment on the nature of the allegations, the team said on Friday it 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.”

Neither Richardson nor a team spokesman could be reached for comment on the league taking over the probe or reports about the accusations.

Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson walks on the field before Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters
Picture Supplied by Action Images

Sports Illustrated magazine reported on Sunday that at least four former employees have received monetary settlements due to inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by Richardson, including sexually suggestive language and behavior and use of a racial slur.

The magazine did not name the sources cited in the story but the settlements involved nondisclosure clauses.

Dec 17, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Panthers owner Jerry Richardson watches his team during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Richardson, 81 and a former NFL player, has been a majority owner of the Charlotte-based team since it began playing in the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1995.

The Panthers said on Friday that law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan would lead the internal investigation, and that former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, a minority team owner, would oversee it.

The Panthers had urged the league on Sunday to take over the probe, and the NFL agreed to it, NFL.com reported.

Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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