The Carolina Panthers are based in North Carolina. But a recently released Carolina Panthers T-shirt features a map of South Carolina — with the team’s logo and letters “NC” emblazoned inside its borders.
Consumers should fairly assume that when they spend $32 for an NFL-sanctioned T-shirt, it wouldn’t contain a glaring geographical blunder.
But before giving Nike the only failing grade on this fumble, recall the original folly behind the moniker “Carolina Panthers.”
Team owner and Spring Hope, N.C., native Jerry Richardson was a former Wofford and Baltimore Colts receiver who made big money as a co-founder of Hardee’s and food-service tycoon. He wanted to bring the NFL to the Carolinas — and to market the Panthers’ as the Carolinas’ team.
And in their first season, 1995, the Panthers did play home games at Clemson’s Death Valley while construction continued on what was first known as Ericsson Stadium, and is now known as Bank of America Stadium, in Charlotte.
But there was always something a little phony, and patronizing, about calling Charlotte’s pro football team “Carolina.” Long before the Panthers were born, there had been two big-time — well, sort of — Carolina college football teams: the (South) Carolina Gamecocks and the (North) Carolina Tar Heels. That’s not counting East and Western Carolina (Coastal Carolina didn’t field a football team until 2003).
And rather than bicker about whether USC or UNC has a better claim on the “Carolina” name, at least on the football field, let’s just wait until Aug. 29 to see which school wins their blockbuster, cross-border season opener in Columbia.
Meanwhile, let’s also hope the Charlotte, er, Carolina Panthers can produce their first winning season since 2008 — and their first playoff victory since 2005.
After all, we South Carolinians don’t like being associated with losers.
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