A former Carolina Panthers employee who says she was sexually harassed by owner Jerry Richardson called the NFL’s investigation of Richardson “a farce” in a series of letters she wrote that Sports Illustrated published Thursday.
The ex-employee — who was not identified — said she was willing to cooperate with independent investigator Mary Jo White. But the woman’s attorney was told by White that neither White nor the league could protect her if she breached her non-disclosure agreement that was part of the financial settlement she received as a result of her claims.
In the letter addressed to the NFL, the former Panthers employee — who said she worked on the football side of the business — wrote:
“You say you are doing a thorough investigation of ‘workplace misconduct’ of Jerry Richardson. Through my attorney, I let you know that I am indeed a victim of such ‘misconduct’ and have information for you — but you cannot protect me. Got it. You have zero power, and that makes your investigation a farce.”
The woman also claims Richardson’s personal attorneys informed her lawyer that Richardson had no “intention of turning over any information of signed NDAs” to the league, and she was warned she would be in violation of the NDAs if she provided information to investigators, according to the Sports Illustrated report.
The former employee believes Richardson broke the NDA he signed by sharing his side of the story with other owners, according to comments made by Houston Texans owner Bob McNair at the annual NFL meetings last month in Orlando.
McNair told reporters Richardson “was very candid in what he said and what he did. And sometimes things get misunderstood.”
A league official did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.
The woman wrote that she was sharing her claims, including new details about Richardson's alleged misconduct that included suggestive hand-written notes attributed to him, because she is frustrated by the pace of the investigation.
The NFL hired White, the former Securities and Exchange Commission chair, in January to lead an independent investigation of Richardson following sexual and racial misconduct allegations detailed in a December report by SI.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and league officials have said little about the investigation in subsequent four months. Goodell said at the owners meetings in March that he hadn’t spoken to White in a month.
Sports Illustrated reported that four former Panthers employees had received “significant” financial settlements as a result of inappropriate sexual comments and conduct by Richardson, who also reportedly directed a racial slur at a former scout.
According to SI, Richardson would comment on female employees’ appearance on “Jeans Day,” and leave notes with small cash payments for massages or dresses.
The former employee who wrote the letters published Thursday also provided SI with handwritten notes Richardson sent her that included references to rubbing her feet, shaving her legs and putting lotion on her body.
Richardson has not addressed the allegations, which were not mentioned in his Dec. 17 announcement that he was selling the team. Richardson declined comment when approached by two Observer reporters at Bank of America Stadium in December.