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Following allegations of misconduct, NFL owner to sell team

FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 file photo, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson watches before the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals in Charlotte, N.C. The Carolina Panthers are investigating workplace misconduct allegations against founder and owner Jerry Richardson. The team said Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is overseeing the investigation by a Los Angeles-based law firm. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)

The NFL and the Carolina Panthers declined comment on a report Sunday that at least four former Panthers employees received monetary settlements due to inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by owner Jerry Richardson.

Richardson later announced he intends to sell the team.

The Sports Illustrated report cites unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct by the 81-year-old owner. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.

"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons," Drummond told The Associated Press.

The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.

Richardson attended the game Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his long-time wife Rosalind in his luxury box.

The team announced Friday was under investigation, but declined to provide any details.

Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.

"The entire organization is fully 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," Drummond said in the release Friday. "We have work to do to achieve this goal, but we are going to meet it."

Richardson, a former football player with the Baltimore Colts, is responsible for bringing the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 when the Panthers joined the league as an expansion team.

The Panthers began play two years later in 1995.

Richardson has never won a Super Bowl, but the Panthers are 10-4 entering the final two weeks of the regular season and well positioned for a playoff run.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like most of the team's players, hadn't read the details of the report which came out just as the Panthers were preparing to play the Green Bay Packers.

Newton said Richardson has served in a "father-like role" for him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago, and that he has had numerous conversations with the team owner.

"For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson," Newton said. "But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."

Panthers coach said after the game it is important to let the process play out, but also vouched for Richardson's character.

"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera said. "A lot of you know I had a house fire and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that. That's the only thing I can say as far as that is concerned. "

It has been a whirlwind year for the Panthers organization.

Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.

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