Just a few days ago, professional wrestling legend Ric Flair flew into Green Bay to give the San Francisco 49ers football team a pep talk in advance of their Wild Card round NFL Playoff game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. The meeting came together after officials with the 49ers called WWE and asked to put together a special surprise for the team, who had taken to using Flair as inspiration throughout the regular season. Thanks to the fact that San Francisco helped bring WrestleMania 31 to Santa Clara and developed a good relationship with WWE along the way, the wish was granted.
Flair then flew out, delivered a speech, declared his allegiance to the squad, and rooted them on in the big game. The 49ers would go on to defeat the Packers, 23-20, on a last second field goal as time expired.
"The Nature Boy's" reaction:
49ers win! WOOOOO! Congrats SF! Obviously my pep talk worked! WOOOOO! #OldSchoolRaw— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) January 6, 2014
This all reads like a nice little feel good tale but there's a second side to the story.
Indeed, the 49ers aren't the only team who took inspiration from Flair throughout the season. No, the Carolina Panthers have been doing the same. In fact, they celebrated victories by shouting him out in the locker room:
The Carolinas are widely known as "Flair Country". He's a hero in that area, and always has been. Naturally, that bleeds over into sports. That's why Panthers players are feeling betrayed by Flair declaring allegiance to the 49ers.
Did I happen to mention San Francisco's victory over Green Bay means the 49ers will visit Carolina in the Divisional round of the playoffs? Well, it does, and they are, and Flair's speech has drawn the ire of locker room leaders like wide receiver Steve Smith, who told the Charlotte Observer the following:
"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 get the invite here. That Golden Gate Bridge has been burned."
Flair maintains his "heart will always be with the Panthers" but it sure doesn't seem as though they want his allegiance any longer.
Surely the folks at WWE are loving all the mainstream attention this is garnering from the likes of NFL.com and beyond.