Cam Newton said Wednesday that when he learned Sunday of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson’s intention to sell the team amid an NFL investigation into workplace misconduct, he was “disgruntled.” The Carolina quarterback described published claims about Richardson’s conduct as “still allegations,” and he expressed dismay at the thought of a man who “enlightened” him on a variety of matters being “ejected.”
At his weekly media session, Newton was asked about Richardson, who announced Sunday that he will seek a buyer for the Panthers after the 2017 season. The 81-year-old has been the franchise’s dominant figure since its inception as an expansion team in 1993, but his decision came shortly after Sports Illustrated published a story alleging incidents in which he sexually harassed female employees and directed a racial slur at an black employee.
“Before I say anything, I take sexual assault extremely serious,” Newton told reporters. “But allegations? That’s a different thing.”
“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,” Newton said. “So everything I’ve heard were allegations and nothing was actually proven.
“It’s just another person’s word versus that person’s word. But needless to say, I still think extremely highly of Mr. Richardson.”
Newton and other team captains for the Panthers met with Richardson on Sunday, after Carolina beat the Green Bay Packers but before it made the announcement. In a multi-paragraph statement released that evening, Richardson did not mention any reasons for his decision but said “it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership.”
Of that meeting, Newton said Wednesday, “I left disgruntled because … this is a person who has enlightened me on so many different things, on the field as well as off. And for him to kind of be ejected from my life, [on] the sports side, I don’t even know how to handle that.”
While Newton said “some positives” emerged from the meeting, he acknowledged that the uncertainty surrounding the franchise has been difficult to process this week. “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.”
It was mentioned to Newton during the media session that the SI report claimed the Panthers had come to at least four “significant” financial settlements with former employees who accused Richardson of misconduct, which could lend some credence to the allegations.
“Pretty sure there’s a lot of things that were done,” Newton said. “I’m not his lawyer. Let’s be clear about that. Were there things done? Yeah, there were some things done. But needless to say, just speaking with the captains and forming our own opinion, we’re all entitled to our own opinion. And until things are actually facts, that’s when you can start making clear judgment.”
Newton brought up allegations made against him during his college career, when his father was accused of attempting to procure up to $180,000 from Mississippi State so his son, who wound up at Auburn, would sign with the Bulldogs. “Not comparing apples to apples,” the quarterback said. “It’s still something somebody said. When I went through my allegations, it was all false.”
Here is video of Newton’s 15-minute media session.
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