Nov 7, 2023 - Sports

There’s little joy left in Carolina Panthers football, fans say

Photo: Eakin Howard/Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 29: A general view of the stadium during the game between the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Rob Cummings is in a group text called “suffering Charlotte sports fans.”

“That pretty much sums up where we are,” Cummings, who has been a personal seat license (PSL) holder at Bank of America Stadium for nearly 20 years, tells Axios with a chuckle.

Catch up quick: The Panthers are currently 1-7. For a while this season, they were the only team in the NFL without a win.

Why it matters: Fans are weary. They’re tired of losing. Tired of seeing the stadium they helped build filled with the opposing team’s colors. And they certainly don’t like seeing the opposing team’s owner dancing in their home like Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay did after the Colts beat the Panthers Sunday.

What they’re saying: “I would go regardless of their record,” Stephen Guaridpee, a former PSL holder, tells Axios.

  • Laura Guardipee, Stephen’s wife, bought them PSLs as a wedding present in 2017. Now they have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, and going to games isn’t as feasible. A Panthers’ ticket office rep suggested they buy two more tickets for their kids. Laura says that the suggestion missed the mark.
  • The couple listed their upper-deck PSLs on the team’s resale marketplace in 2022 and ended up selling them at a loss. The team also charged a $250 transaction fee for the sale.

State of play: Carolina Panthers fans haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years. Many still cling to the memories of the team’s 2015 Super Bowl run, which featured stars like Cam Newton, Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly and Greg Olsen.

  • But that was nearly a decade ago, and it was under different ownership. Those memories can only carry you through so many losses, Stephen says.
  • The Panthers haven’t had a winning season since before David Tepper bought the team in 2018.

By the numbers: The Panthers’ four home games have drawn an average of 72,339 in paid attendance in a stadium that holds just under 75,000. That’s how many tickets were sold; it doesn’t necessarily translate to butts in seats.

  • The Carolina Panthers have one of the higher renewal rates in the NFL,” a Panthers spokesperson said of the team’s PSL numbers.

Of note: Plenty of Panthers fans are selling their tickets. There are ways to make sure your tickets don’t end up in the hands of opposing fans, though.

  • Cummings is adamant about making sure his tickets end up with other Panthers fans if he can’t attend a game. He’s a member of Roaring Riot, a Panthers fan group, and uses their ticket exchange, which is only for members. Tickets are listed at face value, Roaring Riot founder Zack Luttrell tells Axios.
  • PSL owners can also donate their tickets to the Panthers’ community relations department, which will then be distributed to nonprofits.

Yes, but: Other PSL owners who used to attend every game, including the game in London and the team’s two Super Bowl appearances, see tickets as a commodity. They say it doesn’t matter if you sell them to Panthers fans or away fans.

  • Patrick White, who bought PSLs with his dad in the 1990s, tells Axios he financed most of his tickets this year with the sale of his tickets to the Dallas Cowboys game on Nov. 19.
  • White says he doesn’t expect to attend more than 50% of the team’s home games each season going forward, but he’ll still watch the team on TV, and he plans to take his grandchildren to games.

Between the lines: Several fans tell Axios they don’t feel a connection to the players these days. The second they connect with a player, such as Christian McCaffrey or D.J. Moore, he’s traded, the fans note.

  • Quarterback Bryce Young, whom the Panthers drafted No. 1 overall earlier this year, is a rookie. Fans say they hope he does well, but he isn’t breaking records like No. 2 overall pick, quarterback C.J. Stroud of the Houston Texans.

Zoom out: Charlotte is a city of transplants. That means plenty of folks grew up cheering for other teams like the Jets or Patriots, not the Panthers.

  • But many of these same people are starting families here. The Guardipees, for instance, are raising their kids to be Panthers fans. They will take their kids to games, though PSLs probably aren’t in their future again.

The bottom line: There’s little joy left in Panthers football right now for players or fans, White says.

  • But, as Cummings says, one thing is certain: If the team starts winning, we won’t be having this conversation.

What’s next: The Panthers play at the Chicago Bears on Thursday, Nov. 9, at 8:15pm on Prime Video.

A Colts fan at the Nov. 5 Panthers vs. Colts game at Bank of America Stadium. Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images
A Colts fan at the Nov. 5 Panthers vs. Colts game at Bank of America Stadium. Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images
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