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.

  25. Nick

    and if you guys check the news, now they are selling pizza for 23 cents on thursday to apologize.

    GO CAVS!!

  26. sexygirlincleveland

    Ok Ok everyone calm down lets use common sense!!!! that was in WASHINGTON !!!! why are you guys tripping about what papa john’s is doing in WASHINGTON. everyone with a freaking brain can figure out that it was a marketing ploy for the WASHINGTON area papa john’s. THERE ARE SO MANY MORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN THE WORLD THAT WE NEED TO BE PROTESTING!!!! chill out it is just a game!!! and guess what the CAVS won the game!!! not the wizards. So this should not be hurting the cleveland papa john’s in no way. if you guys can read it was for a FRANCHISEE IN WASHINGTON NOT CLEVELAND SO WHAT IS THE BIG FUSS ABOUT!!!! you guys are wasting your time. by boycotting you can cause alot of good people to lose what might be there only means of making a living. yes it was in poor taste but so what it is just a freaking game!!!!

  27. Ohio Papa John's Team Member

    I am a manager at a Papa John’s in Wadsworth, Ohio. When I found out about this I was very upset that someone would do this! Papa John’s did not authorize this in anyway. The person who did this is obviously fired by now. We support of the Cleveland teams here and would never have let this happen if we had know about this ahead of time! LeBron James have family in this area and he has a house less then 20 minutes from here. He has held his youth basketball tournaments in our city and we were the one’s who provided the pizza for the event. It would just have been stupid for us to go along with something like this! I want everyone to know that on Thursday May 8, Papa John’s will be have a 23 cent pizza day and all the money from this will be going to a Cleveland Cavaliers charity. Please do not punish us for something that we did not even know about until after it happened. Please do not boycott us for others bad judgment.

  28. NBA Fan

    Are we talking about the same “CRYBABY” that got a technical in game 6?

  29. John "Bradshaw" Layfield

    I think there is much need to call someone a name, like scumbag, Papa John’s has no sense in customer service or appreciation. It’s the customers that keep you in business and make your paychecks, and it’s the customers who, if they stop buying, will put you out of business.

  30. Vicky

    yes, there are some people here in cleveland who think “crybaby” you know him as 23 is a “CRYBABY” and thank god someone said you call him a roll model, hello two children and still not married? And finally someone brings up the real truth about who the great BB players are. And another thing KING get real. He is OVER RATED when are those shirts coming out I’ll take one and wear it proudly. One idot got mad and yeah, now all these small buisness owners are going to suffer. Stupid people do stupid things and who cares what other fans wear, look at 23 wearing a NY hat, your right take and leave James. Real cleveland fans love their teams no matter how the play and with or without James, real Cleveland fans rock…….. any other team want to make him an offer?? Good bye James you are an over rated crybaby, remember you only scored 2 points higher then the one guy on the wizzard team. and still I know you all you people saying you will boycott will be there, getting your 23 cent pizza, I still want mine suasage……..

  31. Mike

    Wizzard fan’s wished they had a crybaby player
    that was that good.
    Better to be overrated than a big mouth thug.
    Some one should lose his job over this shirt deal
    or his francise

  32. jroy

    For the first time I will be grateful for the “crybaby” because on Thursday I’ll be able to feed my family with Papa Johns Pizza for $0.23 a pizza. In this economy that will be a real treat. The millions that the young man makes doesn’t justify his moral standing with two illegitamate children. He is certainly not the roll model I want for my boys. And by the way, I think most professional sports players are million dollar crybabies. These are the idols our country upholds as heros? What a sad state of the Union.

  33. spapania

    I would have to say Vicky is retarded. It sounds like this person has no idea that Lebron is still dating the same girl since highschool. Also both children are with her. Since when do you have to be married to be a role model…..idiot. Also it sounds like you are a proud Wizards fan……..better luck in the following years to come…..Washington is a stepping stone to raise Cleveland higher……3 years now. Go Home Bitch

  34. zach

    LeBron is the biggest crybaby in the league! He gets a ton of calls and then crys for more calls. Who cares! I’m a Cavaliers fan – I know that LeBron gets a ton of calls and that he is a crybaby….so what.

  35. Cleveland Crybabies

    Uh, Cleveland can not take the joke. Rename the team:

    “Cleveland Crybabies”

    Who the hell is this James guy anyway? Never heard of him.

    And why do sports losers think anyone cares about their games?

    We got a world where four people a minute starve to death every minute.

    We have our soldiers killing foreigners every day in our name to protect the oil companies and Halliburton stockholders.

    That’s right, America is murdering men women and children every day in your name and you spend your time on this crap?

    Sigh: get a life, Cleveland!

  36. spapania

    obviously you have just a little of a life to reply to our threads……..what do you have to say that…….and obviously you know who he is because you wouldn’t be on this site. I love retards from D.C. they are so cute…

  37. NeRlAn

    No matter how much papa john’s tries there is still going to be people that won’t eat at papa john’s because of this. It is sad that pj businesses in Ohio may have trouble but thats what you get when the local chains can’t be check by the higher ups in the company. For the people that say lebron is a crybaby well everyone is a crybaby in almost every sport. Players always argue with the refs. People here are saying that he is a bad role model because he has two children with his high school sweat heart but there not married. If they were married would it make you happier. What if they don’t want to get married because of financial reasons or lebron doesn’t want his girlfriend to up and leave him with 50 mil (pre nups are so romantic). Its not your business so why do you make it your problem does you child watch lebron take care of his kids or play basketball. Would you rather have there favorite basketball player run in the stands and punch a fan(artest) or thier favorite football player go to a stripclub at 3 in the morning and be involved woth a shooting. You must take the good with the bad and im sure your not perfect amd the way you write your comments your kids are in trouble. And if you people cry about people being crybabies that kind of makes you a crybaby. And of course that makes me a crybaby.

    From a 15 year old boy from Maryland.
    Oga boga boga bitch

  38. 216eric

    vicky, you are a fucking moron. lebron is overrated? “he only scored 2 pts higher than the one wizzard guy ” ?? he had a goddamn triple double! do you even know what that is? come on lady, he’s only the greatest player to ever put on a cavalier jersey, or any jersey for that matter.

  39. noljaooadifviafobvsef

    The wizards suck if i told you what i really thought about them the naacp would get on my ass there isn’t one white person on that team :-)

    oh yeah papa johns is gay

  40. Blueberry Ruffin

    …if only anyone in Cleveland could come up with 23 cents


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