A recent article in the Charlotte Observer chronicles the sad fall of Jerry Richardson, the builder of the Panther empire and of a major restaurant chair. As told in the article, Richardson’s rise from little to much is, in the classical sense, a tragedy. When any person falls because of wrong decisions and actions it is sad. However, how the public explains and understands the fall is far more important than the fall itself.
Jim Morrill and Michael Gordon, the writers of the article, state that, “Some [people] say he [Richardson] fell victim to changing times and workplace mores.” That statement is offensive and shows delusional thinking. To view Jerry Richardson as a victim of any kind is offensive and wrong-headed. How can a man of is power and reputation be a victim? If he is a victim of anything, he is a victim of his own arrogance built from too much pride. Also, any man intelligent enough to build such an empire as he did, is smart enough to adapt to the changes of society and the work place. This statement and or belief only excuses the cheap behavior of Richardson.
In explaining the alleged racial slur used by Richardson against an African-American team scout, Morrill and Gordon explain: “It [the slur] was a surprising suggestion for a man known for the courtly manners of a Southern gentleman and whose star quarterback, like many teammates, is African-American.” Once again, the article manages to offend. First of all, the allegation is just that. Not a suggestion. To use the word “suggestion”, the writers soften the possibility of a racial slur and, once again, excuse the behavior of Richardson by using surprising as its adjective. Why would we be surprised by such actions of a man who settled lawsuits concerning racial prejudice while the owner of a large fast-food chair? But Morrill and Gordon are not finished with that. They continue by describing Richardson as “courtly…Southern… and gentleman” who, because of the color of Cam Newton, the team’s leader and quarterback, could in no way be racist or even use a racial slur. What is more astounding is that the writers mention that many of Newton’s teammates are African-American, so that is support for Richardson’s racial views because he makes money from the work of African-American?
Richardson and his Denny’s chain were sued by six Secret Service agents for racial discrimination. Washington, D.C. attorney John Relman, represented the agents. He is quoted by Morrill and Gordon as saying, “People just don’t start using racial slurs when they’re 80.” That quotation is insightful and should engender deep thought concerning Richardson’s actions.
I don’t know Jerry Richardson, but as I read the article by Morrill and Gordon, I saw much in him to admire. He rose and built an empire and a team loved by its city. However, in reading his history, it seems to me that he kept attitudes and beliefs that should have been discarded long ago. A victim? Yes, of his own hubris.