The Panthers found what could be a perfect fit in wide receiver D.J. Moore last night with their first-round pick, and it was about the fifth-most interesting thing that happened at Bank of America Stadium yesterday.
Any excitement over the addition of Moore was overshadowed by the looming sale of the team, and how that process is being complicated by yet another embarrassing round of reports about the bad behavior of owner Jerry Richardson. In the aftermath, the front office he left behind is trying to mop up as much as they are being allowed to.
A new report from Sports Illustrated yesterday included another round of frankly creepy details, including Richardson’s handwritten note to a female staffer which read: “I regret I have never been able to give you pleasure.” The team had entered into settlements and non-disclosure agreements with a number of former staffers, and Sports Illustrated‘s source was emboldened to break her silence after Richardson shared details of his version of events with other NFL owners including Bob McNair.
Two team sources told PFT that a number of behind-the-scenes changes have taken place to try fix the mess left by Richardson’s workplace misconduct, though they were prevented from cleaning house to the degree they wanted to.
Chief operating officer Tina Becker reportedly wanted to fire longtime team general counsel Richard Thigpen, who presided over the NDAs between Richardson and his accusers. However, the sources said she was discouraged from getting rid of Thigpen over concerns that it would impact the value of the team during the sale process. That direction reportedly came from the firm overseeing the sale, apparently concerned that the appearance of instability was worse than the reality of Richardson’s own actions and Thigpen’s involvement in them.
The sale process is ongoing, and nothing that happened yesterday is causing the value of the team to do anything but drop. Steelers minority owner David Tepper and South Carolina financier Ben Navarro are viewed as the favorites among the bidders, with Navarro offering what’s reported to be the highest bid and Tepper having the greater personal wealth and the support of a number of current NFL owners.
But Becker has also restructured the front office in other ways, putting the human resources department under the control of deputy general counsel and director of compliance Steve Argeris. HR had previously reported to the team’s chief financial officer, but they’re trying to implement some new programs and create something resembling an actual business operation in anticipation of problems which could arise in the future and under new ownership.
Of course, a new owner could come in and make most of the work done moot, by cleaning out the business side of the organization and bringing in his own directors. But there is some degree of effort being made to clean things up, and to create a workplace that is both functional and not threatening to women and minorities (to say the Panthers organization has been largely white and male over the years is an extreme understatement).
It will be a long process, and the steps taken now are the small, necessary ones, being implemented by people with no guarantees of employment beyond the next month or so.