Cam Newton not rushing to judgment on Jerry Richardson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton plans to stand up for Jerry Richardson amid allegations against the 81-year-old owner, but he's not standing behind his decision to sell the team.

Newton and other team captains met with Richardson on Sunday, prior to the owner saying he planned to sell the Panthers after this season.

That announcement came about six hours after Sports Illustrated published an article that documented allegations against Richardson of workplace misconduct that ranged from sexual harassment to the use of a racial slur to a former Panthers scout.

Newton said he left Sunday's meeting feeling "disgruntled'' that Richardson planned to sell "because this is a person who has enlightened me on so many different types of things, on and off the field.''

Newton emphasized that the allegations against Richardson -- who, according to SI, settled with at least four former employees to keep their accusations private -- are just that: allegations.

Newton found himself in a similar spot while at Auburn. His father was alleged to have shopped his services to Mississippi State for up to $180,000 before Newton ultimately went to Auburn, where in 2010 he won the national title and Heisman Trophy.

The NCAA found no major violations after a 13-month investigation into Auburn's recruitment of Newton.

"I basically almost got an NCAA ... almost been suspended, just off an allegation,'' Newton said Wednesday. "That's how I feel about it. Not comparing apples to apples. It's still something somebody said. When I went through my allegations, it was all false.''

Newton made it clear that he takes charges of sexual harassment seriously.

"But allegations, that's a different thing,'' he said.

"In this day and time, it's almost, you're automatically guilty until proven innocent rather than, in the rights of the judicial system, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

"... Nothing was actually proven. It's just another person's word against another person's word. Needless to say, I still think extremely highly of Mr. Richardson. I don't even know any of the sources. I'm reaching to find it. I take sexual assault extremely serious, and I didn't want to offend anybody by that. Just having a lot of allegations thrown at a person isn't fair.''

Newton admitted that the days since the SI article was published have been difficult.

"I was scared on Sunday. I'm still scared now, not knowing what to even expect,'' he said. "When you hear a report about Mr. Richardson, a person that we all, as an organization, have so much respect for and the people who did come out saying certain things about racial slurs, sexual assault ... it's still allegations.''

Richardson's decision to put the team up for sale didn't sit well with Newton when he was informed of it during Sunday's meeting.

"I didn't approve of it,'' Newton said. "For him to be ejected from my life, from the sports side, I don't even know how to handle that.''

Newton wants the team to remain in Charlotte with new ownership.

"Of course I want it to stay in Charlotte, and it should stay in Charlotte,'' he said. "From what I've heard, it's going to stay in Charlotte.

"I'm not nervous about it moving. I believe we get the best of both worlds. We're one of the few sports teams to be represented by two states. I wouldn't see why someone would want to move it.''

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is also standing by Richardson while the NFL investigates the allegations. Like other players, Munnerlyn said he never witnessed Richardson do any of the things SI reported.

"Mr. Richardson has been nothing but great to me, been kind to me,'' he said. "I love Mr. Richardson.''

Munnerlyn said the Panthers (10-4), who can wrap up a playoff spot with a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, are committed to winning a Super Bowl for their owner.

"Let's win the Super Bowl for him and the city of Charlotte and for the guys like Julius Peppers and Thomas Davis,'' he said. "Just go out there and play at a high level and get these wins.''