October 1st provided a beautiful Carolina fall day as the late afternoon sun moved shadows across the Bank of America Stadium field while two Special Olympics Unified Flag Football teams squared off in a memorable contest. The Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings teamed up to host an NFL-style Special Olympics Unified Flag Football game in Bank of America Stadium between teams from Special Olympics Minnesota and Special Olympics North Carolina. The once-in -a-lifetime game took place following the Vikings vs. Panthers match-up earlier that day. The Special Olympics Unified program joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team for a unique shared experience and understanding.
The day of on-field competition was made more memorable by Ticketmaster, which provided tickets to the athletes, their families and Special Olympics staff to enjoy the Vikings vs. Panthers game prior to the two Unified teams taking the field. In addition, Panthers players Marquise Haynes, Jammie Robinson and Adam Thielen returned to the field from the locker room to provide sideline encouragement and well-wishes for the teams.
"The Carolina Panthers are pleased to have partnered with Ticketmaster, the Minnesota Vikings, Special Olympics Minnesota and Special Olympics North Carolina to provide this incredible experience for all involved," said Panthers director of community relations Riley Fields. "The on-field competition was spirited and intense, but the biggest feeling was the shared sense of joy from both teams. Both teams practiced and prepared and it was impressive to see how each team played at such an elite level."
Following the game, the teams enjoyed a post-game dinner and fellowship in the Panthers Atrium Health Dome. "It was a gratifying day for all involved," said Fields.