Panthers coach speaks publicly on owner Jerry Richardson, team being sold

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Carolina Panthers' Coach Ron Rivera spoke to reporters Monday a day after owner Jerry Richardson announced that he will put the franchise up for sale at the end of this season.

Rivera didn't say much about the investigation into Richardson's alleged misconduct.

"I'm going to wait until the investigation is done before I draw any conclusions," Rivera said.

Rivera did say he was "taken aback" and was "a little surprised" by the owner's decision to sell the team after this season. He said he spoke to Richardson Sunday night before the announcement. He said he spoke to players again on Monday, and that he hopes the team can stay in Charlotte.

The statement about the upcoming sale was released on the Carolina Panthers official website Sunday night.

Richardson said that he believes it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership.

In the statement, Richardson says that the organization "will not begin the sale process, nor entertain any inquiries until the very last game is played."

The announcement comes amid an NFL investigation into Richardson and allegations of workplace misconduct.

The Panthers announced the investigation Friday as an internal investigation led by the outside international law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by limited owner and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

Questions surfaced of how fair the Panthers would be in conducting an internal investigation of Richardson, and national sports writers,asked why the NFL didn't start its own investigation.

However, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Sunday that the league would hire an independent law firm to lead the investigation.

Sports Illustrated reported Sunday that at least four former Carolina Panthers employees have received "significant" monetary settlements as a result of inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by owner Richardson.

The conduct, Sports Illustrated reported, included "sexually suggestive language and behavior, and on at least one occasion directing a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout."

SI said the settlements included non-disclosure agreements, forbidding the people involved from discussing the matter.

Current and former Panthers players have spoken out about the allegations. Head Coach Ron Rivera had some comments as well.

"I don't know what has been written or what has been said. All I know is what Mr. Richardson has been for me and that has been very supportive," Rivera said.

"That's something extremely serious right now, especially when you see so many people getting picked out because of things that they have done in the past. I don't take that lightly," Quarterback Cam Newton said. "For what I do know, [Mr. Richardson] has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative for them."

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted her reaction to the allegations against Richardson and the potential sale of the team.

Richardson, who has owned the team since it emerged as an NFL expansion franchise in the 1995 season, is 81. He has dealt with health issues and undergone several procedures over the years, including a heart transplant in 2009.

Richardson is the only current NFL owner who also played in the league.

Hip-hop mogul Diddy expressed his interest in buying the Carolina Panthers via Twitter.

Forbes currently lists the Carolina Panthers at a worth of $2.3 billion.

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