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NFL Unaware of Reported Agreements with Former Panthers Employees in Richardson Harassment Cases

An NFL official says the league had no knowledge of the reported financial agreements the Panthers made with four former employees to settle claims of sexual harassment and, in one instance, a racial slur, by team owner Jerry Richardson, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports.

The settlements were part of an explosive Sports Illustrated report last weekend that prompted the NFL to launch its investigation and resulted in Richardson’s decision to sell the team after the 2017 season.

And according to Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, the league found out when everyone else did.

“I don’t believe the league was (aware),” Lockhart said. “But certainly that is an area that the investigation will look into.”

The Panthers’ failure to report the settlements could be a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, which requires teams and players to let the league know of any matters that potentially fall under the policy.

Lockhart, a former White House press secretary, said the NFL will hire outside counsel to lead the investigation of Richardson.

Lisa Friel, a former New York sex-crimes prosecutor hired by the NFL in 2014 to help commissioner Roger Goodell handle domestic-violence probes, will not be a part of the Richardson investigation, according to Lockhart.

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