The Carolina Panthers lost Super Bowl 50, but not according to hundreds of pennants that fans bought Monday night outside Bank of America Stadium.
As fans assembled in the parking lot of the stadium to await the team’s arrival back to Charlotte, a man who said his name is Jeff sold Super Bowl champion Panthers pennants for $1.
“A buck! One dollar!,” he shouted like a concessionaire to the hundreds—and possibly more than one thousand—fans gathered around 6 p.m. Monday.
You’d think that for one dollar, these incorrect pennants on a stick would be counterfeit. But I don’t think so, though. The logos and colors were real, the quality and design seemed legitimate and there were holographic stickers on the backs of every pennant.
I would also consider myself an amateur authenticator. As someone who grew up in the age of fake Jordan shoes and someone who just spent a week around real and fake Super Bowl merchandise in San Francisco, I know how to spot plenty of fake sports merchandise.
“You buy them ahead of time,” Jeff told me. “If they lose, you lose money.”
Jeff, who’s about 6-foot-1 and no more than 160 pounds wearing a gray hoodie and shorts on a chilly night, said he bought 500 pennants. By 6:30 p.m. when he and I talked, he had sold about 200.
A security guard for the stadium came up to him around then and told him that he could sell merchandise, but he had to get off the stadium property. So Jeff took his bundle of pennants over to Mint Street.
When Jeff says “you buy them ahead of time,” I don’t think he means you can just order them off a league website. I don’t know how he got his hands on 500 pennants presenting the wrong Super Bowl champion, and he wasn’t telling me, either.
“Too long,” Jeff said when I asked how long he’d been doing this.
Major sports leagues in America have long donated the pre-printed items of the championship-losing team to developing countries. The NFL works with Good360, one of the country’s largest charities, to get the merchandise to those in need of clothing outside the United States.
In Azerbaijan and Georgia, people have Back-2-Back Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl championship t-shirts from last season.
And Good360 said it will find a home for Panthers merchandise soon.
Jeff didn’t tell me how much he would have sold the pennants had Carolina won, but it was clear it wouldn’t have been $1.
“Oh yeah, it’s always a gamble,” Jeff said before ending the conversation.