When the Carolina Panthers take the field this September, it will be the first time in Eric Mulligan’s life that Steve Smith will not be wearing black and blue. And like many Panther fans, Mulligan isn’t happy about it.
Mulligan was one of dozens of fans who showed up for a rally for the former Panther in front of Bank of America Stadium on Thursday morning. Just minutes before the rally began at noon, it was announced that Smith was officially released.
Several of the protesters had strong words for the Panthers organization, specifically general manager David Gettleman.
“He’s like the wicked witch who only comes out on Halloween,” Mulligan said, as he held his sign.
Tammi Goldwire showed up at the rally with a sign dismissing the Panthers loyalty. She says that Smith personally touched her through interacting with her son and granddaughter.
“He came up to my grand baby one day and told her how beautiful she was,” she said. “He was nice to the kids and he was nice to the fans.”
But what would make people come to rally around a millionaire NFL player in the middle of the day? For Brian Clark, the reason is pretty simple: loyalty.
“He had loyalty for us, even when we had our bad seasons,” Clark said. “He stayed with us and kept pounding. Just because the Panthers don’t have loyalty to him doesn’t mean the players don’t have loyalty to him.”
Clark said he’s been a Panthers fan since the team was awarded back in 1993. He says things will definitely be different without Smith.
“Steve Smith just brings an energy and a charge to this field,” Clark said. “When he’s fired up, we’re fired up. You’re not going to have that now.”