Carolina Panthers to sponsor Piedmont Players’ production of ‘Lombardi’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 8, 2015

By Deirdre Parker Smith

The Carolina Panthers will collaborate with Piedmont Players Theatre as the Producing Partner of their upcoming production of “Lombardi,” a play that follows legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. It just so happens that a matinee of the play falls on Super Bowl Sunday, and that the Super Bowl trophy is named for Lombardi.

PPT’s Marketing Director Josh Wainright wrote in a press release, “We are beyond excited to have the Panthers as a Producing Partner for this incredible story of perhaps the most well known NFL coach of all time.  With the team competing in the playoffs right now, for them to even think about taking the time to help a non-profit theater in Salisbury speaks to the amazing character of the entire franchise and we are incredibly grateful.”

Later, on the phone, Wainright said, “It was kind of a no-brainer for Reid (Leonard) and me when talking about producers.” They started asking if anyone knew anyone with the Panthers. PPT board member Tim Proper of F&M Bank thought he did, so he called Bob Setzer, who knew that Dick Goodman was related to the Richardson family, who owns the Panthers. Turns out, Goodman is a cousin of Rosalind Richardson, Jerry Richardson’s wife.

Wainright said the calls and email kept moving up and up, with Goodman contacting his cousin, who immediately presented it to her husband’s assistant, who took it to marketing and got the “Yes!” that Piedmont Players was looking for.

Wainright said once PPT got to the right people, it was easy. Piedmont Players got the good news before Christmas, but had to wait until now to publicize it.

Proper, who is from upstate New York, knew that the Buffalo Bills helped produce a production of “Lombardi” in Buffalo, and that’s what made him think about the Panthers.

Owner Jerry Richardson, a native of North Carolina, was a former wide receiver on the Baltimore Colts who had used his 1959 league championship bonus to co-found the Hardee’s chain of restaurants and served as president and CEO of TW Services.  Richardson announced his bid for an NFL expansion franchise in 1987 and on Oct. 23, 1993, the 28 NFL owners unanimously named the Carolina Panthers as the 29th member of the NFL. Their home field and headquarters are at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte and their annual training camp is held in Spartanburg, S.C.

The Panthers compete in the NFL’s NFC South Division.  They have won five division titles, including this season, when they became the first team ever to repeat as NFC South Champions.  In 2003, the Panthers reached Super Bowl XXXVIII, where they met the New England Patriots in what many have called one of the best Super Bowls of all time. The Panthers face the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday at 8:15 p.m., in the NFC Divisional playoffs.

The Carolina Panthers support a variety of non-profits in North and South Carolina through the Carolina Panthers Charities.  In addition to these team-specific efforts, the Panthers participate in a number of regular initiatives promoted by the NFL and USA Football, the league’s youth football development partner. These include USA Football Month, held throughout August to encourage and promote youth football; A Crucial Catch, the league’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month program; Salute to Service, held throughout November to support military families and personnel; and PLAY 60, which encourages young NFL fans to be active for at least 60 minutes each day.

“Lombardi” opens at the Meroney Theater the Thursday before the Super Bowl (Jan. 29), Wainright said.  “The only thing better than having the Panthers as a Piedmont Players Producing Partner would be the team lifting the Lombardi Trophy following the Super Bowl on opening weekend!  Go Panthers!”

“Lombardi,” by Eric Simonson, is based on the book “When Pride Still Mattered-A Life of Vince Lombardi,” written by David Maraniss. The performance dates, are Jan. 29-31 and Feb. 4-7 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb 1 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets go on sale Jan 19;  adults, $15; seniors/students, $12.