By Collin Cunningham
(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Good morning, Charlotte! Today is Monday, Dec. 27 and hopefully everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend. There are still Kwanzaa-focused events to check out in the Queen City until the celebration wraps up on Jan. 1. Before that, we have New Year's Eve, and this week's Roundups will offer a few ideas to celebrate the holiday safely after North Carolina saw nearly 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 last week. A North Carolina police chief is in hot water for advising Oakboro officers to visit a fraudulent coronavirus vaccine card operation.
The Carolina Panthers found their stockings stuffed with boos from fans when they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 32-6, on Sunday and fans are wondering: What's next for Cam Newton? And we follow up on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Officer Mia Goodwin after supporters raised over $250,000 for the officer's family in the wake of her death last week.
What happened: The North Carolina Department of Health and Services won't be releasing new COVID-19 data until Tuesday due to the holiday, but there was still news concerning the virus in the state. Oakboro Chief of Police TJ Smith told officers about a clinic to get vaccine cards without having the shot to prove it and now finds himself on a two-week, unpaid leave through Jan 4.
Why it matters: Smith had told his employees about the fraudulent clinic to help them get vaccine certification without the inoculation. It is unknown if any of the officers took Smith up on hs offer, but Oakboro Town Administrator Doug Burgess told the Chief in a letter that he would face termination if he repeats the infraction. Burgess also placed Smith on a six-month probation.
"I'm owning that. It was a mistake, and I shared misinformation," Smith later apologized, adding: "I shared something that wasn't true. I didn't profit from it. I couldn't possibly profit form it, and I didn't do it from a place of malice."
2. Ahoy! Fans bury Panthers with boos after Buccaeers blast Carolina, 32-6, and will Cam Newton return next year?
What happened: The Panthers dragged themselves through four quarters against the Buccaneers yesterday, not scoring a single touchdown during their last game of the season at Bank of America Stadium. It was quarterback Sam Darnold's first time on the turf since he injured his shoulder during a Week 9 matchup, and he threw 15 of 32 for 190 yards after Cam Newton started on Sunday.
Darnold's return meant fellow QB Cam Newton saw less game time than in past weeks, in which he's traded starting spots with backup 'back P.J. Walker. Newton led the team through a scoreless second half after tossing an interception to Tampa in the first, with seven of his overall 13 passes finding hands to net the Panthers 61 yards.
Why it matters: The Panthers haven't seen a win since Week 10, and they won't be seeing any playoff dates with their latest loss putting them at 5-10 and solidifying Carolina as the last-ranked team in the NFC South. The Cats next face the Saints in New Orleans on Jan. 2. Fans reacted to Sunday's 26-point difference with a bevy of boos, including the chant "Fire Matt Rhule."
Will the team sign Newton in 2022? Rhule responded positively to loud fans in Charlotte, saying "You are what your record says you are, so I should be booed," and Newtown jumped to his defense, telling EPSN that "Coach Rhule is a great coach."
It is unclear whether Newton will be able to offer those same complements to Rhule in the 2022 season, as Newton's $10 million mid-season contract ends after the Panthers play the Buccaneers in Tampa on Jan. 9. Neither Rhule nor Newton have commented on the 32-year-old quarterback's future trajectory.
The family of CMPD Officer Mia Goodwin received nearly $300,000 in donations from a pair of GoFundMe campaigns after a car crash killed Goodwin on Interstate 85 on the morning of Dec. 23. We reported last week that Goodwin left behind her husband, a Charlotte firefighter, and three children: a 4-month old, a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. Three other officers sustained injuries when an 18-wheeler driven by Daniel Lee Morgan, 50, crashed into Goodwin and the other cops, who were monitoring a cleanup on the highway.
The three others have recovered from their injuries but Goodwin died on the scene. Goodwin's funeral service will take place at First Baptist Church on North Davidson Street at 12 p.m. on Wednesday following visitation at 10 a.m.
4. Safe NYE in the CLT: The best restaurants for your last feast of 2021
With New Year's Eve approaching on Friday, this week's Roundups will take some time to suggest Metrolina activities and events to celebrate the last day of 2021 and the first day of 2022. Today's NYE in the CLT looks at restaurants to reserve for your last big meal of the year and tomorrow's will glance at parties to carry you to the ball drop.
- Seven-course dinner at Bardo in South End
This new Americana concept is looking to stick to Charlotteans' palates (and itineraries) through the start of 2022 with a seven-course meal planned for New Year's Eve. The South Mint Street restaurant will open at 5:30 p.m., and diners can expect to pay $165 per person for "exuberant ingredients" and a festive champagne toast.
- Get, well, crunk at New Year's Eve Dinner at The Crunkleton in Elizabeth
Looking to dine at an exclusive destination on Friday? The Crunkleton, a members-only cocktail lounge in Charlotte's Elizabeth neighborhood, is throwing open the doors to its bar and indoor seating sections for nonmembers for $100 New Year's dinner reservations at 5 p.m. Table seating is limited, and patio tables are all booked, but readers can still find a few bar slots.
- Finish the evening with the Charlotte NYE Bar Crawl in Uptown
Form new memories to bring you into the new year by latching on a wristband and visiting four (or five, or six...) bars in downtown Charlotte, courtesy of this New Year's bar tour. Crawlers will get drinks tickets for a handful of local bars, be treated to an appetizer buffet and access to group activities like karaoke and a "VIP" viewing of the ball drop in Times Square. Earlier and cheaper reservations have sold, but the last 100 tickets for the event are still available for $70.
And don't worry, we haven't forgotten about the Duke's Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday's Roundups will tell you which North Carolina Tar Heels and South Carolina Gamecocks players will be absent from the most emulsified-egg-rich bowl game of the year.
Below the Fold
Numbers, please? When the NCDHHS does release new coronavirus data tomorrow, the numbers are anticipated to show a significant increase over statistics reported last week due to holiday transmission.
Panthers, continued: While fans may be critical of Rhule, team owner David Tepper apparently is not. Rhule transitioned from the college circuit to lead the Panthers in 2020, and CBS Sports reports Tepper is willing to keep Rhule on board following the ongoing 5-10 season and Carolina's 5-11 record from 2020-21.
And P.J. Walker is "unlikely to play" in the Cardiac Cats' last two games in 2022 after Rhule ruled Walker inactive hours before Sunday's match without offering an explanation.