Carolina Panthers: Charles Johnson Tweets Pic Wearing Rival Atlanta Falcons Hat

Jimmy GrapponeCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2011

Carolina Panthers' Charles Johnson (95) playing against his hometown team, the Atlanta Falcons, in 2009.
Carolina Panthers' Charles Johnson (95) playing against his hometown team, the Atlanta Falcons, in 2009.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Carolina Panthers message boards and Facebook pages were all atwitter Friday morning and afternoon.

The local sports talk radio shows' phone lines were inundated all morning and afternoon with fans calling to discuss what the early morning drive hosts at 610AM WFNZ had, by 7 a.m., already dubbed "Hat Gate."

The subject even had Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith calling in before the sun was fully risen to defend the actions of his teammate, though he also discussed his longtime feud with Washington Redskins' cornerback, DeAngelo Hall, on the eve of the Skins' weekend visit to Charlotte.

The controversy everyone wanted to talk about was Charles Johnson, the Carolina Panthers' $76 million defensive end, posting a picture of himself posing with actor Dan Aykroyd of "Blues Brothers" and "Ghostbusters" fame, while wearing an Atlanta Falcons baseball cap at Charlotte hot spot Mez Thursday night on his Twitter account, @randywattson.

Johnson, who tallied a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2010 and signed his lucrative six-year deal with the Panthers almost immediately after the NFL lockout was lifted in July, grew up in Georgia and was courted by the Falcons but decided to re-sign with the Panthers.

Carolina's Pro Bowl defensive end has been one of the few bright spots on the Panthers defense in 2011 with five sacks through the first six games of the season, though many Panthers fans seemed to be offended that he would wear the apparel of a division rival after losing to the same team by two touchdowns just five days earlier.

Johnson was likely making more of a fashion statement with his choice of headgear than he was making any indication as to his loyalty among NFL franchises. He tweeted that people were making way too big of a deal about his choice in outfits and even threatened to remove his followers who were doing so, while using the Ruff Ryders-inspired hashtag #RideorDie to refer to his true fans.

However, can you imagine Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in a Washington Redskins hoodie? Or Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers wearing a Chicago Bears beanie?

Neither of those scenarios would go over well in Texas or Wisconsin, so why should anyone be surprised that fans in the Carolinas are upset with the defensive end's poor judgment?

To Johnson's credit, he posted an updated picture with an Atlanta Braves baseball cap shortly before 3 p.m. Friday with the comment, "Let's see what they say about this hat lol."

In the end, all will be forgiven and forgotten by Sunday as long as he makes life miserable for the Washington Redskins' new starting quarterback, John Beck, and gets him to the ground at least once or twice in the Panthers' 1 p.m. home game at Bank of America Stadium.

A Panthers victory over the Redskins would not hurt matters, either.