Pro wrestling icon Ric Flair declined to attend the San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers game today at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
And it may not just over the controversy surrounding his perceived disloyalty to the Panthers.
Flair, a long-time Charlotte resident, gave the 49ers a pre-game pep talk last week, and many Panthers fans apparently felt betrayed to the point of making death threats. The Panthers had even adopted Flair's famous "wooooo" battle cry, although that may not continue.
Despite his Carolina roots, the former wrestling champion told Colin Kaepernick and company that "Ric Flair's heart is wth the 49ers all the way to the end" during the motivational speech.
The address to the team last week seemed to have worked as the 49ers edged the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in the NFL Wild Card playoff game at Lambeau Field last Sunday. This afternoon, the 49ers defeated the Panthers 23-10 in the divisional playoff matchup.
Before today's game, Panthers receiver Steve Smith expressed dissatisfaction with Flair's newly revealed 49ers fascination: "As a guy who actually has a Ric Flair robe I'm real disappointed in seeing that. Real disappointed. I'm not sure if he'll (Flair) get the invite here. That Golden Gate Bridge has been burned."
According to Flair's agent, Ric has friends on several NFL teams, including the 49ers, Panthers, Packers, and others.
There may be another reason why Flair had no plans to attend today's game in Charlotte, however. According to the Carolina Business Journal, there is an arrest warrant outstanding in Mecklenburg County, N.C. for Rick Flair in connection with money his owes from his recent divorce. Had Flair shown up for the game to support either team, he might have wound up behind bars.
When asked about the controversy around Ric Flair's motivational talk last Saturday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said that it's just fine to have two favorite NFL teams. Added Harbaugh: "I think Ric Flair's a fantastic guy. I had a chance to spend quite a bit of time with him, half-hour, hour or so on Saturday. And then, of course, he spoke to our team. He spoke very highly of Carolina and his friendships with the Carolina Panthers."
Wrestling legend Ric Flair (Fliehr) is a 16-time World's Heavyweight Champion. The flamboyant "Nature Boy" is considered perhaps the greatest pro wrestler of all time. In addition to his in-ring athleticism, Rick Flair in his prime cut the best promos of anyone in that sports-entertainment genre during his time in the NWA, WCW, and WWE among other promotions. Out of the ring, Flair has faced a host of legal and family problems, however.
[image credit: Mark Hodgins]