Panthers owner Jerry Richardson at Bank of America on Sunday
Frustrated by the NFL's investigation into allegations of sexual and racial workplace misconduct by Carolina Panthers owner and founder Jerry Richardson, a female victim has decided to share more of her experience.
In a series of open letters released Thursday by Sports Illustrated, she includes details of verbal and physical sexual misconduct, along with several suggestive handwritten notes allegedly from Richardson himself.
The woman, who identified herself as a "female Panthers staffer who worked directly in football" but otherwise remained anonymous, addresses the NFL, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, enablers of alleged misconduct, Panthers coach Ron Rivera, a potential new owner and Richardson in the series of letters published by Sports Illustrated.
In a letter addressed directly to Richardson, the woman describes details of sexual harassment and assault by Richardson that were first outlined in a Sports Illustrated report published Dec. 17, which prompted an NFL investigation into sexual and racial workplace misconduct and the sale of the franchise.
"I was not allowed in the locker room, weight room or team hallways," the woman wrote. "I was not allowed to eat in the football lunchroom, was not given a staff locker, was not allowed to fly on the team plane. I was not given team attire, was not allowed at practice, was not paid equally."
The woman says Richardson started leaving her "suggestive notes" and then instructing her to destroy them. Sports Illustrated included photos of the alleged notes from Richardson. One directs the woman to get a manicure, pedicure and facial and instructs her to "wear lip gloss" before a game against New England.
"If I could ... I'd pamper you more. Rub your feet. Shave your legs. Put lotion on your body — etc, etc," another reads.
A third asks the woman if she thinks of him as "your grandfather, your second father, your second husband, your friend, your boyfriend, or something else," and ends, "I regret I have never been able to give you pleasure."
The woman describes that the harassment also became physical.
"I didn’t know what to do when you summoned me to your personal office, instructed me to sit in the chair across from you, pulled my chair towards you so you could sandwich my legs, which you proceeded to rub, between yours," she writes. "I didn’t know what to do when you called me to your stadium suite in the middle of the week so you could take off my shoes, place my legs in your lap and rub their entire length, from toes to crotch."
The woman says Richardson also asked her to turn around so he could see how her jeans looked, and brushed against her breasts as he put her seat belt on in a car.
"I didn’t know what to do when you put your hands on my mouth, for me to kiss them," she said. "I didn’t know what to do when you asked me uncomfortable, sexually charged questions."
The woman says that she was directed to hand-write notes to Richardson expressing her gratitude to him.
"Fear and intimidation abound in the environment you created," she writes to Richardson. "So does sexual harassment."
The woman said that McNair revealed to her with his comments in defense of Richardson at the league meetings in Orlando on March 25 that Richardson broke the nondisclosure agreement he signed with her.
"According to you, Richardson shared his side of the story with owners," she addressed McNair. "You said, 'He was very candid in what he said and what he did.’
"Because Jerry Richardson spoke on the subject, I can write these letters and finally speak my truth."
But the NFL's investigation, which the victim told Sports Illustrated is "a farce," did not allow protections for her if she were to break her NDA, and that Richardson would not agree to release alleged victims from their NDAs and would not turn them over himself to investigator Mary Jo White.
The woman also addressed the Panthers' general counsel, calling them "enablers" of the alleged misconduct, and Rivera for his breakdown of the team in Richardson's name following the last home game of the season.
"How insensitive you are to not only my truth, but to the truth of your scout" — (in the original report, allegations of a racial slur used by Richardson against a former Panthers scout were reported) — "current and former Panthers staff, and even the victims of other perpetrators," she wrote. "Victims are hurt all over again when people publicly side with an abuser, let alone celebrate one."
The woman signed her letters, "A Jerry Richardson Victim Still Too Afraid."
Sports Illustrated wrote that the former employee's claims were fact-checked.
The Panthers released a statement in response to the report on Thursday.
"“Since December 2017, when we commenced an internal investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct, the organization has taken the appropriate steps to remediate any misconduct and ensure a safe and comfortable work environment," the statement reads.
"These claims are very serious and we have cooperated with the NFL’s investigation and remain fully committed to improving every facet of our organization."
The statement also said that the organization felt "compelled to establish what we are doing to provide a healthy work environment."
"Tina Becker was named COO in December, and immediately began working towards addressing the issues. The team allocated significant resources towards reforming our workplace, restructured executive responsibilities and added a comprehensive training program on harassment and diversity and inclusion issues," the statement said.
The Panthers said that they have "overhauled our related policies and procedures, including improvements in our reporting to the League, all to make certain that employees who have a concern have multiple ways to report those concerns and can feel comfortable doing so. "
A team spokesman said that there would be no additional comment, and Becker has not been made available for comment since her promotion in December.