The Carolina Panthers announced today linebacker Shaq Thompson as its nominee for the WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE. Considered the league’s most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. Each of the league’s 32 nominees were announced today.
Thompson has emerged as a leader of the Panthers in his sixth season with the team and has carried that leadership role into serving communities in Charlotte, N.C., and Sacramento, Calif. – two places that are important to him. Naturally reserved, Thompson has stepped to the forefront with the nation experiencing issues ranging from a global pandemic to social justice.
“I’m doing it from my heart. If you know me, you know I don’t like a lot of lights on me,” Thompson said.
Shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson quickly responded with a personal uplift to stretched-thin frontline workers by donating 2,000 meals to healthcare workers at four different Atrium Health campuses across the Charlotte area. He matched that effort for families in unstable housing by providing dinner twice a week throughout the summer for displaced, low-income families struggling with temporary living conditions in motels in Charlotte.
“I live here, I love it here,” Thompson said. “I care about this community. I care about people. I want them to see that and know that.”
During the social unrest that has gripped the United States in the wake of several high-profile police shootings, Thompson has stepped forward as a leader in the community and among his teammates. He led a player contingent that met with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney to discuss bridge building and improving relations between the community and police, as well as engaging in difficult conversations about police accountability. Thompson also encouraged other players to participate in peaceful community protests that called further attention to his efforts of creating dialogue and response.
“I want to step up as a leader – let my voice be heard and my face be shown,” Thompson said.
Thompson is now paying it back as an NFL player. He and Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey teamed up to create the 22 and 54 Together program (McCaffrey and Thompson’s jersey numbers) that addresses opportunity access challenges for at-risk youth. They are providing $50,000 to cover Police Activities League and Boys & Girls Club program fees for low-income youth.
“This is exactly what our community needs right now – something positive, uniting our community and police in a focus on kids who will be left behind and will suffer most if we don’t come together,” Thompson said.
At the same time Thompson is making a difference in the Charlotte community, he is also making an impact across the country in his hometown of Sacramento. He continued his on-going support of football at the grassroots level by providing $25,000 in new equipment and uniforms for his alma mater, Grant Union High School.
In addition, he recently established the Thompson Legacy Fund as a way to memorialize his mother, Patty Thompson, and carry on the greater good she always did for her community and her sons. The Thompson Legacy Fund serves low-income students in Sacramento and Charlotte, focusing on mentorship, character development and dental hygiene. The organization’s main goal is to build the leaders of tomorrow and equip them with the confidence and situational awareness to be successful in any field.
Soon, Thompson will announce his newest project with the Charlotte community. He is partnering with a local dentist and the Boys & Girls Club to provide 100 children with free dental cleanings as well as braces or related needs that are assessed during the dental treatments.
“My mom wasn’t able to take us to the dentist and get our teeth cleaned every six months,” Thompson said. “I want to make sure these kids have a confidence in their smile. If you have a confidence nobody’s going to break that from you, you’re going to live your best life.”
As a nominee, Thompson will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
“The Carolina Panthers are honored to nominate Shaq Thompson for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award,” said Riley Fields, the Carolina Panthers’ director of community relations.
For the third year in a row, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LV. The 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the week of Super Bowl LV, on CBS.
All 32 nominees will receive a $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide’s 6th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee’s last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between December 10 and January 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at http://www.nfl.com/manoftheyear.
New this year, fans can win NFL Shop gift cards and additional money for their favorite nominee’s charity. Each Monday during the #WPMOYChallenge, Nationwide will ask fans to respond on Twitter with their favorite nominee and one randomly selected fan each week will win a $100 NFL Shop gift card and $2,500 for their favorite nominee’s charity.