Update: I have received word that Papa John’s has formally apologized for the incident. Click over to So Good’s front page to read about the apology and other updates on the story from the past 24 hours. My original post about the “Crybaby” T-shirts appears below:
Earlier tonight I attended the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers playoff game 6 at the Verizon Center in DC. Over the course of my night, one thing really surprised me. A few fans around the arena had shirts mocking Lebron James. The shirts had the number 23 on them, with the word “Crybaby” across the back. This kind of taunting is common at NBA arenas. But what was most shocking was that the shirts featured the Papa John’s logo, and appeared to be sponsored by, and paid for by, Papa John’s Pizza.
Lebron James is one of, if not THE most popular player in the NBA. Not only that, he is beloved in the state of Ohio. I was perplexed why Papa John’s Pizza would put their name on a t-shirt that so openly taunted such a well-liked athlete. The decision to sponsor these shirts seems incredibly ill advised.
The only rational would be if Papa John’s has a lot of franchises in Washington, DC, but none in the state of Ohio. However, as a national chain, I was skeptical that they didn’t have a presence in the state. Sure enough, a quick check on the Papa John’s website, using their restaurant locater, shows that there are TEN different Papa John’s pizza outlets just within 12 miles of the Cleveland Cavaliers arena.
So the question now is, why did Papa John’s decide to sponsor a promotion that will surely piss off a ton of Cavaliers fans and Ohio residents? Will Papa John’s start to lose business because angry residents don’t appreciate them openly mocking the most popular athlete in the state of Ohio? Will this end up hurting Papa John’s profits, or damage their company name? Will it lead to a boycott of Papa John’s by Cleveland Cavaliers fans?