SBD/August 14, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Minding My Business With NFL Panthers Dir Of Community Relations Riley Fields



Fields grew up in Charlotte and is in his 11th season with the Panthers
NFL Panthers Dir of Community Relations RILEY FIELDS began working with the team during the '03 season, which ended with the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance. While Fields calls that year "magical and memorable," it is the day-to-day details behind initiatives such as bringing in Make-A-Wish honoree JACK BOLTON that really get him going. "At the end of the day, we're trying to create joy. When we get to be part of those types of experiences that we know have a profound impact on a child, or a family or a community, it's just a privilege to be able to do it," Fields said. THE DAILY caught up with the Charlotte native during a busy preseason and discussed the trick to finding a good employee, how Facebook helped build a new children's facility, and his pick for the best local BBQ.

What I'm looking for in a job candidate...
When hiring interns, I like to see if they have experience as a camp counselor, because that experience translates directly to a lot of our job functions. Talking in front of 600 kids at an elementary school can be a daunting task. But if you've been faced with a rainy day at camp, with 200 kids in the meal hall, and you've got to come up with a way to entertain them until it stops raining, that is great on-the-job training. Camp counselor experience is almost a gateway job to community relations.

Best advice I've ever received...
I've got three, and two are from my dad. First, "A man who chops his own firewood is twice warmed." Essentially, he’s telling me you get out of something what you put into it. Another is, "Inch by inch it's a cinch, and yard by yard it gets hard." With all the things that we’re involved with, and the level of details that we're responsible for, that’s something I think about all the time. The third is from (Panthers Owner) MR. RICHARDSON, who's said on more than one occasion, "Do the right thing." No matter what you’re doing, you know if you're doing the right thing.

Social media's impact on the job...
By virtue of Panthers fans dominating a league-wide "Back to Football" Facebook initiative, the team received a Play 60 grant from the NFL for a local Play 60 project. That funding acted as a catalyst to start a much larger project in motion that we're actually executing right now. We're building a Play 60 play space at Charlotte's Freedom Park, and it's like NFL Combine meets "AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR." There's nothing else like it.

What the sports industry needs more of...
Credit for the good things that sport does, and that the industry does. Not just from a community relations aspect, but also what sport does for the fabric of our society. Sport is a connector, a unifier, a bond builder in ways that it's hard to find something else that acts in that capacity. There are so many negative stories in the sports universe, I'd like to see more celebration of the impact that sport has on culture, nation, community, family. Something that inspires me is the collective energy of a stadium full of people, all there for the same purpose, unified in one direction. That is powerful.

Foodie finds in the Queen City...

For lunch it's got to be Sauceman's, and I'm a staunch traditionalist, so I go with barbecue, macaroni and cheese, and hush puppies. As for a hidden gem, as a native, I have allegiance to certain places, and one of them is The Roasting Company. It's unpretentious, and they do rotisserie chicken. They've got this stuff called jaco sauce, and wow, you've got to get the jaco sauce.

Best form of relaxation...
While she's still young enough to think that Dad is cool, it's going to the park with my daughter GRACIE, who is nine years old. Also, I really enjoy sprinting. It's something that I do individually, because I don't know that there are a lot of folks looking to sprint. Running a 5k has zero appeal to me, but going out and running forties, fifties and sixties, it gets my mind right.

Never miss an episode...
Monday nights on ESPN Classic, they've been showing re-runs of "BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS," and that is appointment television for me. You can see HOWARD COSELL calling play-by-play for these TV stars, interviewing TELLY SAVALAS, who's got his sunglasses on with an open-collared track suit, while smoking. It's a great snapshot back into the '70s, and it's nostalgic for me. One indisputable truth that I've learned is that if you're going up against SCOTT BAIO in the obstacle course, you're going down.
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