Amid an NFL investigation into alleged workplace misconduct, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced that he will sell the team after the completion of the 2018 season. He released a statement through the team outlining his plan to sell, but the statement did not acknowledge the accusations made against him.
"Football is an integral part of my life—and I am blessed, every day, that I made the Carolinas my home," the statement reads. "I can never repay all of you for the kindness and generosity you have shown me, Rosalind, and my family for more than two decades. We have the best fans in football—and I truly mean that. In my opinion, we also have the best organization, and they have served us well.
"I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership. Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of the NFL season. We will not being the sale process, nor will we entertain any inquiries, until the very last game is played. I hope everyone in this organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on just one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl."
Richardson and the Panthers organization made multiple payouts for workplace misconduct, including sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur toward a scout who has since left the team, sources told Sports Illustrated. The settlements contained non-disclosure agreements that prevented the parties from discussing the details of what occurred.
Richardson's decision to voluntarily sell means he'll avoid a scenario in which he is forced to sell the team, but the league's investigation into his conduct will continue nonetheless, reports Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann.
Carolina held on to beat the Packers 31-24 on Sunday, a win that got the Panthers to 10-4 and kept them just one game back of the Saints in the NFC South. Carolina currently occupies the first Wild Card spot (fifth overall seed) in the NFC playoffs. Carolina hosts the Buccaneers next week before finishing the season at the Falcons.
Richardson played two seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts (1959-60). He amassed a fortune via a 50 percent ownership in the Hardee's fast food business, and he also served as the CEO of food services company Flagstar.
The Panthers are the 21st most valuable NFL franchise with a $2.3 billion valuation, according to Forbes.
Richardson, 81, bought the Panthers when they were started as an expansion franchise in 1995. He has been the team's only owner.