Richardson’s exit gets even worse with his likeness left behind - News-Times: Sports

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Richardson’s exit gets even worse with his likeness left behind

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Posted: Friday, July 13, 2018 11:45 am

Shame on you, Jerry Richardson.

Why is it the people with so much have trouble giving the least? The self-made billionaire doesn’t need my endorsement, but he lost the trust and respect of the fan base he helped build this week when he forewent his last opportunity to address or apologize for the non-disclosure controversy that forced his sale of the Carolina Panthers.

The now-former owner made his sale to hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper official on Monday. The Panthers owner of 23 years was voluntarily ousted in December immediately following a Sports Illustrated report that outlined troubling cases of sexual harassment and racial misconduct by the owner to members of his organization.

The months-long investigation by the NFL – Richardson was never charged with a crime – into the financial settlements Richardson made with at least four former employees resulted in a league-record fine of $2.75 million.

As reported by the Charlotte Observer, an NFL release revealed that independent investigator U.S. attorney Mary Jo White had found nothing to discredit the claims of former employees while also uncovering “similar matters that have not been the subject of public discussion.”

Richardson, who has yet to address the Sports Illustrated report or the fine levied by the league, penned a farewell letter to Panthers fans on Monday. In it, he lauded the people who have helped run the organization while offering confidence in Tepper’s ability to carry out the previous owner’s legacy.

One thing that was not included in the letter, however, was an apology. Regardless of whether or not you feel Richardson owes his victims an apology, he most certainly owes one to his fans. Richardson, the only former NFL player to own a team, brought professional football to the Carolinas and built a winning franchise with two Super Bowl appearances and too many unforgettable moments to recount.

But there is no denying that this controversy has done considerable damage to Richardson’s reputation. He made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. But his error is not owning up to it or at least apologizing for the distraction from the team and the game his behavior has caused. There would be no reason for Richardson to withdraw from his ownership position if the story held no merit.

The ongoing saga saw fire added to the flames Monday during Tepper’s official introductory press conference. In it, the new owner was pressed about the 13-foot statue of Richardson that adorns the entrance to Bank of America stadium in uptown Charlotte.

The statue, which was erected in 2016, was an iffy move by Richardson at the time. No other living owner has a statue dedicated to himself or herself gracing the outside of the franchise’s stadium. That aside, the recent controversy indicated to fans that Tepper would make the removal of the statue a priority. There is no reason why Richardson’s legacy of Panthers football should be forgotten, but a Stalin-esque statue of the man should not be left to fester and frustrate those who must pass it to and from every home game.

Instead, Tepper surprised everyone on Monday when he explained why the statue would remain – it was a condition of the sale.

If keeping the statue erected and located at the entrance of the stadium is, indeed, a “contractual obligation” as Tepper insisted, Richardson has lost every shred of respect in my eyes.

The hubris that must have gone in to that decision is staggering. Speaking of conditions of sale, why didn’t the NFL make any potential fines levied on Richardson a contractual obligation? The league released a statement in late June expressing confidence that the former owner would respect the fine and pay up, but it has no guarantee Richardson will do any such thing.

Why would he?

He clearly has disregarded the severity of the Sports Illustrated report and refuses to address the accusations. Why wouldn’t he insist a statue depicting his person remain standing?

If Tepper, who has already promised the franchise will do away with non-disclosure agreements, is indeed committed to establishing a new culture. Then even a 13-foot statue of Richardson will be just a bad memory in time.

(Send comments or questions to zack@thenewstimes.com or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)

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