Me Too Movement and The Culture of the NFL

Daniel Johnson
Sports Editor

Go back about two months, around Thanksgiving or the beginning of winter break. You could not log into Google and type in the name of a random celebrity without finding a story of that celebrity with skeletons in their closet. It seemed as if at least one of those celebrities associated with the original search had been accused of some sexual crime against a women. The wealth of information of past misconduct from high profile celebrities has been the results of a year long movement called “The Me Too Movement.”

That being said, the information about misconduct in the world place did not seem to have hit the realms of professional sports. Politics, Hollywood, but no sports. There had been coaches and players like Art Briles of Baylor University and former NFL safety Darren Sharper, but those predated the movement. Former US Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, who was the only person connected with sports, sentenced to 60 years for sexually abusing underage girls, but there was a behind the scenes person who no one could recognize.

The sports world almost made it to the end of the year.

During the month of December, athletes and commentators finally decided to show their ugly faces and join Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. NFL Network commentators and former players Marshall Faulk, Ike Taylor and Heath Evans were named in a lawsuit from former NFL network worker, Jami Cantor, for sexual harassment. The lawsuit also included Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis, who were working for ESPN and were eventually fired. Minnesota Twins rising star Miguel Sano is currently under investigation over sexually assault of a female photographer.

Then we have Jerry Richardson. Or “Mister” which was apparently the way he demanded to be addressed by according to Sports Illustrated piece on the now former owner of the hometown Carolina Panthers.

Richardson is celebrated in the Carolinas for bringing professional football to the states in 1995. Since then, Richardson had joined Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones as one of the most influential owners in the league. However, according to SI’s in depth piece that ran on Dec. 17, Richardson and the Panthers had paid at least four former employees of the organization over “inappropriate workplace comments and conduct” from the 81-year-old.

Conduct that includes asking to shave women’s legs, commenting on their bodies in jeans, back rubs, “the seatbelt maneuver” where he would touch women’s breast as he “helped” them with their seatbelts and many other actions that Johnny Bravo would find too pushy.

And when “Mister” wasn’t harassing female workers, he was apparently spouting off racial slurs to his black employees, as the report says that at least one African American Panthers scout was given a settlement for racial slurs directed at him from Jerry Richardson.

The Panthers and the NFL got on top of the the story, performing an investigation into the allegations on Richardson. The same day the story came out, Richardson announced he was going to sell the team at the season’s end. So with all that information, it is hard to imagine anyone being willing to speak about Jerry Richardson in a positive light.

Well, it’s the exact opposite.

Players and coaches on the Panthers talked about wanting to win a championship for Jerry in his final year and were emotional following their Wild Card defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Saints. All Pro linebacker, Luke Kuechly (who is ironically the face of CPI Security) said following the game,

“This is not how we wanted to end the season to end for him… we’ll miss having him around. He’s helped a lot of guys in this locker room get where they are.”

Richardson isn’t a player retiring, wanting to go out as a champion. He’s not leaving for his health. He was essentially forced out because he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Imagine Chris Paul and Blake Griffin speaking about how they would miss Donald Sterling’s smile when he was forced out the NBA.

Sports in general has a “boy’s club” type of attitude, but football especially. While the NBA markets itself as the progressive league, a large number of players in the National Football League hail from the Bible Belt and prides itself on a more traditionally conservative league. When Jerry Richardson announced he was selling the team, hip hop mogul Sean Combs was rumored to be interested in being part of a group to purchase the team. Though there is a willingness to hold out hope that Diddy would become the second African American owner in the four major professional sports, it is as likely as the Panthers’ LII Super Bowl chances.

So, is this a turning point? Like Harvey Weinstein, will these allegations backed by strong evidence lead to a change in the NFL community. Well, Buffalo Bills lineman Richie Incognito was accused follow his team’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars of using racial slurs towards Jaguar players.

Incognito has had a long history of using racial slurs towards players, including his own teammates. He was also accused in 2012 of using a golf club to sexually harass a woman while drunk. Incognito seems to be getting the Jerry Richardson treatment of defenders. Well, at the very least, Carolina and Buffalo were immediately beaten in the postseason.

Categories: Pro Sports, Sports

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