A Green Bay Packers fan who had his team’s banner snatched down by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton at Sunday’s game has reported the incident to police as a theft and said he expects the Panthers to “make it right.”
Late Monday, the Carolina Panthers said they’ve reached out to the banner’s owner and are “in the process of providing a replacement,” according to a statement on the team’s website.
The fan, Mike Dobs, an army veteran who lives in Fayetteville, said he’s getting angry messages, even death threats, from reporting the theft.
Dobs told the Observer on Monday that Newton ran up and snatched the banner “out of our hands” before the start of Sunday’s Panthers game against the Packers in Charlotte.
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“We thought it was a joke at first, but he never came back with the banner,” Dobs said. “That’s when I went to security and told them he stole it. The first officer I talked to just laughed.”
Dobs’ banner had a green map of North Carolina with the Green Bay logo in the middle and the words “North Carolina Cheesehead,” referring to the nickname Green Bay fans give themselves.
Newton said after the game that he grabbed the banner and explained that he felt it was disrespectful to Panthers fans and their home, Bank of America Stadium.
“It just doesn’t match,” Newton told reporters. “… I was passing, the sign was dangling. Either somebody was going to have to take it off or I’d take it off. And it’s no disrespect to nobody, it’s more of a respect to the stadium.”
At a news conference Monday, Panthers coach Ron Rivera referred to the incident as a “side story.” However, he said he wished Newton had not done it.
“It’s still a side story, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “It’s being taken care of. Cam’s been talked to, and we are reaching out to the other party. That’s where we are.”
News of the incident blew up on the Internet Sunday, especially after the Fayetteville Observer reported that Dobs had reported the incident to stadium security as a theft and later demanded to get the banner back.
Said Rolling Stone magazine Monday: “Newton spied the words ‘North Carolina Cheesehead’ printed on a big-ass banner that was hanging on his home turf. So he reached up and snatched it, balled it up and ran for the hills. Or up a tunnel toward the Panthers’ locker room, anyway, leaving the owner of said banner dazed.”
Dobs, a recent candidate for Fayetteville City Council, said Monday he has received at least one threatening phone call and some threats via the Internet from people who think he’s fishing for money from the Panthers or Cam Newton.
He says the team promised Sunday that he would be compensated in some way, but he’s not sure what that means. He said the banner cost $500, and was new, having just been purchased in January.
“It’s not about money. I just want my sign back,” said Dobs, 50, noting security at the stadium told him Newton “tore it up in the locker room.”
“I followed all the rules. I got pre-approval to have that banner, and look what it got me. We were shocked. When Cam ran up, we thought he was going to talk to us, or even sign our banner. But instead he ripped it out of our hands and almost took my son-in-law’s finger with it.
“I’d like an apology from Cam Newton for one thing.”
On Monday, other Panthers players said they encouraged Newton to grab the banner and apologized for it via Twitter.
Banners are allowed in Bank of America stadium, but must comply with various NFL guidelines, which include not affixing banners supporting opposing teams to the railings. The Panthers said on Monday that they were reviewing the team’s policy.
“We’d rather not see opposing signage in our stadium, but when this policy was developed it was consistent with the vast majority of NFL stadiums,” Executive Director of Stadium Operations Scott Paul said in a question and answer article posted on the team’s website on Monday.
Dobs said the trip to Charlotte was his first and was part of a family vacation that included a stay at the Westin hotel in uptown Charlotte. The tickets alone cost the family $3,800, he added.
The Wisconsin native said he and his wife of 32 years, Chris, have made it a tradition to take at least one vacation a year centered on an NFL game. Dobs said he is retired from the Army, but works at Fort Bragg, running the site’s Green Beret operations course.
At least one group of Panthers fans – called the 652 Gang – is supporting Dobs’ claim that the 8- by-3-foot banner needs to be replaced, though it is stopping short of criticizing Newton for the incident. Troy Selberg said his group of 75 to 100 fans contacted the family about replacing the banner. He said they also want to invite the family to one of their tailgate events.
“Nobody knows better than us how much all this stuff costs when you support a team,” said Selberg. “We’re not all that different from them, though we support a different team. We would hope if we went to another community and showed our pride, we’d not be treated that way.”
Jonathan Jones contributed