OAKLAND - The Red Panda is indeed a beloved halftime act across the country.
The Golden State Warriors told Rong Niu of San Francisco, aka the Red Panda Acrobat, this week that they would be honored to buy her a new custom-built unicycle, after someone took it from San Francisco International Airport’s baggage area last week, her agent, Pat Figley told KTVU on Friday morning. He said he got word from Brett Yamaguchi, who is director of game experience, and Josh Springer, who work in operations.
He shared an email the Warriors sent him which said: “For years, Red Panda has been a fan favorite of the Warriors organization, their fans and, specifically, their season ticket holders. She has performed at Oracle Arena more than 15 times over the last 20 years. To thank Red Panda for her years of family friendly entertainment, the Golden State Warriors and their family of approximately 14,500 season ticket holders would like to replace Red Panda’s missing unicycle, with a brand new custom cycle so that she can continue to put smiles on the faces of fans at Warriors games and, just as important, all over the world.”
Figley said that the details still need to be worked out. The one that was taken is valued at about $25,000 and fits her frame perfectly. "This was totally unexpected," he said.
KTVU first reported the unicycle theft on Wednesday, prompting a national firestorm of angry outbursts against the person who took the Red Panda’s source of income and source of delight for basketball fans across the country.
For years, she has been riding her 7-foot unicycle at NBA games, including for the Warriors, and the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, balancing plates and bowls on her head while riding her one-wheeled bike.
She's owned her special unicycle for 30 years and Figley described it as her "baby." She's been riding a backup unicycle since, but it's not the same: Figley said she's been dropping bowls and not performing up to her usual standard.
Sports blogs and writers took up her cause, vilifying the suspect. The San Francisco police airport division has an all points bulletin out for a man in a red pony tail and beard who was caught on video Jan. 24 wheeling away her suitcase from the baggage claim area with the unicycle inside.
Figley said all this support means the world to Niu. “Red Panda is so thankful for this,” he said. “More than she or I can put into words.”