“We have to rebuild”: Panthers fans react to trade of Christian McCaffrey

Longtime fans said they were sad to learn the news late Thursday, but are hopeful for the team’s future.
Panthers fans around the city are speaking their minds after the star running back was traded.
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 7:15 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Christian McCaffrey jerseys still lined the walls of the Carolina Panthers team store on Friday afternoon, one day after the news broke that the Panthers have traded him to the 49ers for draft picks.

Longtime fans said they were sad to learn the news late Thursday, but are hopeful for the future of the franchise.

WFNZ sports radio host Kyle Bailey said the trade was inevitable.

“Well, the season is going south and Christian is a running back and it’s not the 80s or 90s anymore, so running backs, positionally, have lost a lot of value,” Bailey said.

Looking ahead to next season, Bailey sees it as a time to rebuild, but not necessarily clean house.

“There is an opportunity to keep the core pieces on this roster together moving into next year, as they’re likely gonna be the number-one overall pick in the draft, get a new QB, hire a new coach,” he said.

For fans like Art VanWingerden, it’s a day of reflection.

He and his family have followed McCaffrey’s career since day one.

“We’ve been Panthers fans since the beginning,” VanWingerden said. “My brother lived in Greenville, South Carolina when we had the two years at Clemson. He went to every game then. We were PSL owners for the first 10 years they were around, the past 15 years we’ve been suite owners.”

His family traveled for the Super Bowl, and never misses a home game.

He said news of the trade is hard to hear.

“You’re like, ‘ugh, man we’re trading away our best player,’” he said. “Part of it I can understand, we got five draft picks out of it. I just hope we don’t continue to trade away our assets.”

Panthers super fan and PSL owner David Gabriel attended his first game at seven years old.

“I woke up at 2 a.m. to a phone full of notifications, got a lot of Twitter messages, a lot of friends texting me,” he said. “Being one of the cornerstones of Carolina Panthers football for the last five years, it was hard news to take in the middle of the night.”

But he said it’s the best move for McCaffrey and for the team.

“We have to rebuild,” he said.

He also said he will put on a brave face for the rest of the reason.

“I’ve been through one and 15, two and 14, we can get through this,” he said. “As they say around here, Keep Pounding.”

Related: ‘Carolina, I will always love you’: Panthers trade RB Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers