CHARLOTTE, NC (Jourdan Rodrigue/Charlotte Observer) - The Observer has obtained a copy of an email sent by Carolina Panthers chief operating officer Tina Becker to Panthers employees on Friday, April 27, just after 5 pm., a day after Sports Illustrated released a series of letters written by an alleged victim of sexual abuse of Carolina Panthers owner and founder Jerry Richardson.
Becker said she was "deeply affected by what I have read, especially this week." She also wrote that steps have been implemented to improve the culture in "our workplace."
Multiple sources confirmed to the Observer the time the email was sent as well as its contents.
The letters published by SI addressed Richardson and the Panthers' General Counsel among others in the organization and the NFL itself, detailing specific instances of the alleged abuse and including photos of inappropriate handwritten notes she said were from Richardson. The alleged victim also called the NFL's investigation into Richardson and the Panthers "a farce."
The organization released a statement in response to the letters, but has largely remained silent regarding the allegations and investigation, which is still ongoing.
The email reads as follows:
"These past few months have been difficult for all of us. I've spoken with many of you individually in recent days and weeks. I have been deeply affected by what I have read, especially this week, and like many of you, I am trying to process all of it. Still, I know that we need to keep moving forward.
I want to take this time to address our entire Panthers family. Over the last several months, we have taken important steps to strengthen our culture, and we have committed to doing all we can to ensure that everyone can thrive in an environment free from harassment or discrimination of any kind.
Change does not come overnight, but we are making progress on our journey. We've put a lot into reforming our workplace. We've implemented mandatory trainings for all staff on harassment, implicit bias, and diversity and inclusion. We've increased manager accountability, improved our reporting to the League, and are adding a confidential hotline to give you more ways to report any concerns. When it comes to performance reviews, we are focusing on a better process to support everyone's professional growth. We've started new programs focused on women's leadership, are improving family leave benefits, and launched Together@Panthers, a series of staff outings focused on team-building.
I'm proud of what we've accomplished in a short time, and this is just the beginning. There is more work to be done, and I continue to be inspired by the strength and resolve that I've seen throughout the organization.
Like all of you, I come to work each day to support the Panthers and represent the best of the Carolinas. If ever there is anything on your mind, or if you have any concerns, large or small, please reach out to me.
I am thankful to every one of you for everything you do.
In response, the Observer sent an interview request and series of questions to Becker via team spokesman Steven Drummond, asking for specifics on Becker's comment that she was "deeply affected by what she (had) read," as well as how it affected her.
The Observer also requested details of the inclusion programming Becker says the Panthers have implemented, asked whether any such programs were already in place prior to the original Sports Illustrated report (and if not, why) and asked to whom employees would report concerns via the hotline. The Observer also inquired as to whether Becker felt the organization provided an inclusive and safe environment for women and minorities to work.
Finally, the Observer requested comment on the allegations against Richardson and the nature of the investigation by the league, after it had been categorized as a "farce" by one of the alleged victims.