Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carolina Shops Scramble to Keep Shirts On

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carolina Shops Scramble to Keep Shirts On

Article excerpt

Is there any question that sports fans in the Carolinas will rally around their new National Football League team?

Just ask James Roundtree, who owns the Fan Fair sporting goods shop at Charlotte's SouthPark Mall. He was selling Carolina Panthers T-shirts as fast as he can put them on the shelves Wednesday.

"We've got a line out front 50 yards long," he said, unable to find the time to guess how many Panthers T-shirts and sweatshirts he had sold.

Counting could come later.

"We've already had our biggest day ever," he said.

The same was true at many other area stores, where frenetic fans were wrestling each other for the NFL's hottest merchandise. Several stores had lines even before they opened Wednesday morning.

"I've already bought seven T-shirts and sweatshirts," said Alice Diamond, who was standing in a crowded J.C. Penney store at the Eastland Mall on Wednesday afternoon.

Why was she still hanging around?

"I heard the `breaking through' T-shirts are coming in this afternoon," she said, referring to a design that depicts a black panther's head on the front and its hindquarters on the back as if it is breaking through the shirt.

After six years of waiting, residents of Charlotte and the rest of North Carolina and South Carolina got their reward from the league Tuesday night when Charlotte was a unanimous choice of the 28 owners.

The Panthers will be the first team to join the NFL since Tampa Bay and Seattle began play in 1976. They start play in 1995 in a city whose appetite for big-league sports has been whetted by the National Basketball Association's Charlotte Hornets.

"We just love our sports here in Charlotte," Diamond said. "We're very enthusiastic sports fans."

The makers of Panthers apparel were cranking up to meet the demand.

"It's challenging and we're excited," said Leslie Pistone, whose company, Performance Sportswear, started printing Panthers T-shirts about 9:15 p. …

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