For those of you unfamiliar with this story, you can read all of my follow up coverage, in chronological order HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

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?

127 Responses

  1. Tim Goldy

    I’m a delivery driver at Papa John’s in Shaker Hts,Ohio .We were very busy during the game ,and then it just died . We received two faxes talking about the shirt,followed by threats to boycott .Ihope this blows over quickly .

  2. jdeuel

    Are you sure they aren’t talking about michael jordan, I’m pretty sure HE is the most popular basket ball player.

    Or maybe shaq, or barkley, or Dr. J. Hell, Larry Byrd.

    I honestly couldn’t pick this James fellow out in a line-up, was he in space jam?

  3. bdiddy the pizza killa

    papa johns is done in cleveland…lol that was a dumb marketing decision.. king james cmon now the best role model in sports.. that was a cheap shot..much like the wizards players themselves…BYE BYE GILBERT DESHAWN ANTOINE BRENDAN DANIELS shit on again!!!

  4. Junior Samples

    And Papa Johns pizza sucks fucking balls anyways. They made a stupid decision and will now watch their shitty market share dwindle to nothing

  5. Cleveland Sports Fan

    I’m a general manager for a Papa John’s Pizza about 40 minutes away from Cleveland. There are different privately owned franchises around the country as well as directly “corporate” owned stores. Unfortunately because we are all “Papa John’s,” things like this can affect all of us. Ultimately, what happened was that whatever franchise owns the stores in the D.C. thought it was a good idea to help promote their team, not thinking of the effect it would have on other areas, especially the Northeast Ohio markets. I can assure you that we had no idea of this “marketing idea” and were just as shocked as everyone else when we saw it on TV. Yes, we have received calls of people wanting to boycott us, but hopefully something will come out ASAP from Corporate as a nationwide apology / explination so that Ohio or other stores nationwide aren’t adversely affected!

  6. Tim

    I’ll spread the news about this idiot marketing campaign as much as I can. I’m down the street from your store and will make sure area customers know about this.

  7. Carolyn

    Thanks for the heads up. The blogging world terror threat level is now fire engine red. Links to your article are flying through the blogosphere. I will miss my pineapple bacon pie.

  8. Doug

    So Long Papa Johns, we hardly knew ye. I am going to be staging a “shit-in” protest at the Papa John’s in Streetsboro, Ohio, probably sometime at the end of the summer when I go back there. I will be shitting in a Papa Johns, and I’ll probably say something about the T-Shirt while I do it. Also, I’ll be having cheese sticks with that gross butter garlic sauce (gross but good). I can’t even begin to express how much I don’t like the wizards, eick.

  9. Carolyn

    Tim: I am also down the street from the Shaker Heights Papa John’s; I can help spread the word that our PJ’s is not evil.

  10. houroc

    horrible marketing idea. This will kill PJ’s in ohio. I feel sorry for guys like “cleveland sports fan” who will lose a lot of business behind this and it didn’t even work. The Wizards are going home. Oh well. I can still enjoy my PJ’s down here in Texas.

  11. Garnold

    Doug, I will be there in Cleveland, taking photos of you crapping. Just for photographic evidence. You know. You make a claim like that and people expect you back it up with actions. And I figured you would at least want someone there to sign a form that formally stated that such an event did indeed occur. I have a camera. I mean. Yeah.

  12. CT

    Who cares if Cleveland boycotts Papa John’s? They don’t even have an Ikea.

  13. Failure

    Ironically, Papa John’s is slipping in sales and their company is in the shiiiiter. Rot in he11 Papa John’s you only cause heart disease and high cholesterol anyways.

  14. Sara

    I’ll join the boycott of Papa John’s until the corporate office makes things “right” somehow. But I wish posters here would have more class when they write their comments.

  15. Jim

    He is a crybaby,and the sooner he takes his Yankee hat and leaves the better.

  16. RJCav

    How about if the NE Ohio Franchises get together and smother the crowd with free POSITIVE Cavs Tee Shirts. Could you guys sue the DC guys?

  17. Tim O

    Ikea sucks as well, a bunch of crap made in China, which breaks within a week of purchase.

  18. Joe

    The boycott won’t last long. Obese midwesterners and bloggers can’t stay away from melted cheese and grease for too long.

  19. yep its me

    I eat MORe than my fair share of pizza by admission but I will NOT buy from Papa John’s again under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE!!!

    I am cooking up a plan to make this VERY BAD for Papa John’s!!

  20. Redhawk

    From a simple “good business practices and judgement” standpoint I would be shocked if the originator of this “Crybaby” fiasco was not drummed out of holding a franchise. From my vantagepoint (NE Ohio) and as a total Cav’s Fan I am seeing a growing furor over this blunder. Besides, putting the Wizards down and out on their own home floor three (3) years in a row is not bad for a “Crybaby” and his team of athletes.

  21. Sorry!

    I understand your anger about this t-shirt issue at the Washington Wizards/Cleveland Cavaliers game. We here at Papa Johns Pizza in OHIO do not endorse the actions taken at that game. The individuals involved were not in any way associated with the Papa John’s brand here in Ohio. We support the Cleveland Cavaliers and are GREAT fans of LeBron James.” The best news about this incident is that Cleveland won the game and knocked Washington out of the playoffs.

    I also share your anger about this. It is the D.C Papa Johns Pizza Franchise who had a very poor marketing campaign. They did this without thinking about the repercussion here in Ohio! Even though we are all Papa Johns Pizza, each Franchise is separate from the other. Unfortunately, they can do for lack of a better word something as reckless as this to help their market in D.C. They did not get any approval from Ohio market or Corporate to do so. We obviously would have strenuously declined such a marketing campaign that would pick a side of any sport/politic or religious views. It’s not how we do business.
    Please accept my apologies and know that this issue is being handled at the highest level at our corporate headcounters in Louisville Kentucky.

  22. Dave Cleveland

    papa john’s pizza is nasty anyway. PIZZA HUT ALL THE WAY!!

    thats like comparing colt 45 to great lakes dortmonder.

  23. Clevelandharma

    I never did eat at Papa John’s (or any of the national/seminational chains, for that matter), so a boycott from me wouldn’t make much difference. Local businesses are where it’s at anyhow– better tasting, less fattening and nothing mass-produced. Gimme Geppetto’s or Angelo’s any day.

  24. Nick

    Dude, you ppl need to think b4 you talk. Do you really think that Ohio PJ’s would agree on this if they were asked. That would be retarded on their part. I agree that they don’t have good pizza, but that would be really low class to put a hundred out of jobs because of a t-shirt.


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