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New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw saw the 704 area code on his caller ID and had an idea who might be calling.
On the other end of the line was Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who invited Outlaw to Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals and asked him to beat the “Keep Pounding” drum for the game.
The gesture was made as a show of support for areas that continue to feel the effects of Hurricane Florence, more than a week after the storm hit the Carolinas. The Panthers posted video of the conversation on Twitter Sunday morning.
“You know, Dana, like we do out here, we just tell you folks to keep pounding. Help’s coming,” Rivera said on the call. “Please honor us with that and come be our guest, and keep pounding for your folks in New Bern, North Carolina.”
Outlaw’s response: “I’m chokin’ up.”
New Bern, located where the Neuse and Trent rivers meet in Craven County, was among the areas affected worst by Hurricane Florence.
On Friday, the city announced initial damage estimates in the range of $100 million.
Outlaw said he had to sit down before answering the phone.
“I could cry every five minutes from the compassion that I see for our city from folks all over America,” he told Rivera. “It’s just unreal.”
Outlaw naturally accepted the invitation, on the condition that the Panthers beat the Bengals – which they did, 31-21.
The Panthers started a T-shirt campaign in partnership with Visit North Carolina and Discover South Carolina with all proceeds supporting Hurricane Florence relief funds. The shirts feature the Carolinas with a border that reads, “We share more than a state line,” alongside the hashtag #CAREolinas.
On Sunday, the Panthers wore “One Carolina” decals on their helmets in support of hurricane recovery efforts, like many college teams did on Saturday.
The Bengals also added the decals to their helmets to show their support for the recovery.