It’s not uncommon for NFL players to get caught up in off-field scandals because young guys with money and fame don’t always make the best decisions. It’s rarer when the scandal involves an NFL owner, such as the recent prostitution case involving Patriots owner Robert Kraft. But he’s not the first football owner to make the headlines because of a scandal. Here’s a look at some of the most infamous stories involving NFL team owners in recent memory.
Robert Kraft prostitution sting
When news broke in late February that Kraft was one of more than two dozen men arrested as part of a prostitution sting at a massage parlor in Jupiter, Fla., it made headlines across the country, not just in sports media. He was charged with solicitation of prostitution after police said they had a video of him paying for a sex act.
Police charged the 77-year-old Kraft charged with two counts for two separate incidents, one of which was allegedly on the morning of the AFC Championship game when his Patriots defeated the Chiefs to advance to Super Bowl
Stan Kroenke accused of causing a man to kill himself
Rich Ellis, of Wichita County, Texas, killed himself in October 2016, and the first line of his suicide note read, “Stan you took my home,” referring to Rams owner Stan Kroenke. In February of that year, Kroenke bought roughly 520,000 acres of land in Wichita County. In August, he sent notes to all the residents of homes near a lake on that property — including Ellis — that they were being evicted and had to be off the property by Jan. 31, 2017.
According to Ellis’ wife, Annette, he couldn’t afford to move, which led to his suicide. Ellis, 61, had gone missing on October 26 and police discovered his body near a river two days later.
Jerry Richardson sexual misconduct
Jerry Richardson founded the Carolina Panthers in 1993. He was the team’s majority owner until selling the franchise to David Tepper for $2.2 billion in May 2018. Among NFL team owners, this was one of the more recent scandals to create shockwaves.
Richardson announced his intention to sell the Panthers on Dec. 17, 2017. That was the same day that Sports Illustrated came out with a bombshell report. It claimed that “at least four former Panthers employees have received ‘significant’ monetary settlements due to inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by owner Jerry Richardson, including sexually suggestive language and behavior.”
Multiple former team employees reportedly admitted that Richardson’s behavior wasn’t a secret and, at times, treated as a “running office joke.” Upon learning of Sports Illustrated’s report, the Panthers began an internal investigation that was later taken over by the league. He was ultimately fined $2.75 million by commissioner Roger Goodell for workplace misconduct.
Jerry Jones sexual assault lawsuit
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones may be the most famous — infamous? — of the NFL team owners, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to scandals.
A Dallas woman sued him for sexual assault in September 2014. She claimed to have taken racy pictures with him in June 2009. Jana Weckerly alleged that on the night the photos were taken, Jones “forcibly touched her butt, forcibly touched her breasts, forcibly kissed her and forcibly touched her genitals.” She sought more than $1 million in damages in the suit, but it was dismissed that October.
Jim Irsay drug charges
Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, faced four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance in March 2014 after being stopped by police on suspicion of intoxicated driving in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, Ind. In the subsequent days, reports surfaced that Irsay had been battling a drug problem for some time. According to friends, desperately needed help to overcome it.
Irsay was eventually sentenced to one-year probation after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated. Hours later, the NFL suspended him for the first six games of the 2014 season. Those were the first games he missed since the franchise moved to Indianapolis in 1984.