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. StuMan

    You guys make me want to PUKE! Where were all of you when Kobe raped a girl in Denver. When Artest and Jackson went into the crowd during a game. They were wearing NBA jerseys at the time. Did you boycott the NBA? I guess not since you have the time to express your undying love to LeBron.
    Blueberry Ruffin was right when he asked if anyone in Clevelnad could come up with 23 cents. Maybe if a bunch of you got together, your IQ points could add up to 23.

    Reply
  2. freebird

    not a big lebron fan but have seen him with his son after many cavs games,sounds like a real awful parent dont it vicky?

    Reply
  3. QuickDriver4

    I drive for papa johns in ne ohio. papa johns did NOT support those shirts! it was a franchise owner in DC that came up with the idea. We had NOTHING to do with it in cleveland. But for those of you that live in the area there are 44 locations with what we are calling “apology pizzas” they are 23 cents. Its a large one topping and its pick up only. Hope that makes you feel a little better!

    Reply
  4. Ken

    Here’s the deal, Lebron James is just representing the entire city of crybaby, sorry typo, Cleveland. Seems like if enough people in that city get pissed off over a t-shirt and cry about Papa John’s will give you 23 cent pizzas yay! Here’s an idea: Get over it. It was a fun shirt for a game that was supposed to be for fun. People take shit way to serious. Man I thought the economy was bad and people had no jobs, guess not all anyone can do is whine over papa john’s t-shirts ah well.

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  5. sexygirlincleveland

    I would like to thank stuman for that comment at least someone has some sense on here!!!! there are some many other things we can boycott. dont boycott over a stupid shirt. the employees work there asses off!! and you guys want them to lose there jobs over this!!! everyone needs to grow up and grow some balls. IT WAS JUST A JOKE!!! every one cries in sports. if you dont do think about anything think about the people whose lives can be destoyed because you guys want to boycott for some bs. i cant believe this story has lasted this long. you guys are getting 23 cent pizzas!!! you should be happy!!!

    now can we please get back to watching my CAVS go to the championship and whooping everyone’s ass!!!!!

    Reply
  6. greg

    Hilarious!

    So, Cleveland doesn’t have it bad enough?
    They get so weepy about a T-Shirt jokingly dogging a local hero who happens to whine like a lil-baby about everything on court… that they decide the best course of action is to take it out on themselves.

    Good stuff Cleveland!

    Reply
  7. MC

    I live in Boston and am originally from Clevleand. I will never eat another peice of Papa John’s Pizza again. Nor will I eat another soggy chicken strip or sand dry papa cheese stick. I will be letting my friends in Cleveland and Boston know whats up. No more Papa Schwantz!!

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  8. Chris M

    I’m not even from Ohio, but I respect LeBron and all he has done for the NBA. LeBron fans span all across the country and every Papa John’s store will have a hand full of his fans. That was possibly the dumbest marketing scheme I have ever seen. Sorry Papa John’s in Fayetteville, AR. You just lost a customer.

    Reply
  9. DD

    I loved the shirt…it’s true!!! He is a crybaby. And whoever wrote about Lebron being a role model…get real. If I had kids, I would not want them looking up to someone who thinks that money and fame are more important than an education.
    P.S. If anyone knows where to find one of those shirts please let me know…I would love to get my hands on one.

    Reply
  10. Lisa

    OMG! Lebron could buy the whole state of Ohio Pizza’s and still have pocket change! Why do we have to cry so much about petty crap! I think everyone lives for drama and looks like we’ve created drama! It’s called DWI (Deal w/ it)!! We all know that ANY and ALL Cleveland Teams have a serious curse…we can’t win ANY Championship. We’re the mistake by the Lake and that’s life. Get your .23 pizza and be happy!

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  11. The Christ of Ohio

    I am from Ohio, I have relatives who know LeBron. I agree and I say it now – loudly and proudly – LeBron Is A Bitch.

    Reply
  12. Just another delivery driver...

    I am a delivery driver at a papa John’s near Cleveland/Akron. Seriously, the media in our local area market smelled blood when word about this got out and they fueled the flames even higher by PROMOTING THIS AS IF WE WANTED THE PROMOTIONAL COVERAGE.

    Expect sellouts. Expect LONG waits outside in a line that could very well wrap around the store while it is raining. The parking lot is very busy where our store is located in a plaza near lots of hotels. Rumor has it that a bunch of 8th graders from all different local area schools are going to be there. I have even heard rumors of people camping out in tents waiting for the BIG EVENT.

    People are going to get what they pay for… pizza for $0.23 and we are most likely, along with other stores, going to be sold completely out of product and not be able to sell any during our normal weekend hours. People are IDIOTS. Their lives are so LAME that DRAMA creates excitement and the irresponsible media that SENSATIONALIZES that drama further only make matters even worse.

    I expect to see the ABSOLUTE WORST SIDE of people brought out tomorrow as I prepare to work from 10 AM until 7 PM as a DRIVER (snicker). There will be very few, if any, delieveries during the afternoon due to the media circus and zoo-like atmosphere where the credons can keep on feedin’. This will not be our regular customers, but instead will be a bunch of bottom feeding parasites that are in it only for a free ride with the “Ah’m gonna get what’s mine” attitude.

    I expect police intervention and possibly injuries as the crowd gets angry and turns into a mob that could start a riot… Why? Because they want to or would like to. It’s there chance to overturn the cars and set fire to their own town in protest of the ever increasing cost of living as an American. People are upset about GAS prices costing damn near $4, yet I have to drive to earn a living and fill my tank up most of the time with part of the $$$ I earn from tips. People are getting cheap and not tipping, yet expect superior service (not there in a 1/2 an hour its free, right?).

    Working in the pizza shop industry for over 8 years as both a driver and as an asst. manager for various pizza chains has really been a valuable eye opener into human nature…

    People are stupid, greedy, ignorant, inconsiderate, and arrogant as a general whole, who all think they are more important than the losers which they indeed really are in truth.

    I coin the term “BLACK THURSDAY” for this Papa John’s public relations and marketing meltdown promotional gimmick. I can’t wait until it’s FRIDAY man.

    Just a perfect example of how a FEW misguided morons gave have such serious ramifications on the whole of an enterprise. PJ’s is going to lose a huge amount of business over this from customers who decide to boycott. I bet you they show up tomorrow and BUY $0.23 cent pizza however. Hypocrytes.

    It almost makes me ashamed to admit that I grew up in Northeast Ohio. The FANS, THE MEDIA, and everyone else is to blame for the shitstorm that is about to hit our franchise… and we had NOTHING to do with their childish marketing decision.

    NUFF SAID. OUT.

    Reply
  13. John

    Papa John’s only proved Cleveland is crap. Round on the ends, hi in the middle.

    Reply
  14. LEW

    Papa Johns knows what they are doing by having you call in to place an order for the 23 cent pizza. Try calling in….all the lines are busy. Sure a lot of calls…try…telephone off the hook!!!!!

    Reply
  15. DEBRA K. LESJAK

    I AM A CAVS FAN AND WAS VERY SURPRISED THAT OUR LOCAL PAPA JOHNS PIZZA LOCATED 1315 4TH ST. NW NEW PHILA.,PH#330-364-2900. QUITE A FEW PEOPLE I KNOW HAVE BEEN TRYING TO REACH THE PAPA JOHNS TO GET A 23 CENT PIZZA, THEY ADEVERTISED IN OUR LOCAL TIMES REPORTER PAPER SAYING THAT THEY WERE RUNNING THE SPECIAL JUST LIKE THE CLEVELAND OHIO PAPA JOHNS WERE DOING. THE PROBLEM IS THAT WHEN YOU CALL THE NUMBER OF COURCE IT RINGS BUSY BECAUSE EVERYONE WANTS TO A TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE OFFER , BUT I GOT THROPUGH TWICE, THE PHONE RANG AND RANG AND THEY NEVER DID PICK UP, NEEDLESS TO SAY I WILL NEVER ORDER ANOTHER PIZZA FROM PAPA JOHNS TO ME OUR LOCAL FRANCHISE IS RUNNING A SCAM. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RESPOND PLEASE CALL ME A 33-=343-3626

    Reply
  16. FLebronHaters(and the celtics)

    Alll the Warren and Youngtown loactions are busy phone as well…Pack ur car full of your friends and go to the location and order mass amounts of pizzas…Its a marketing scheme…Extra toppings ….1.50 a piece….Breadsticks/wings/soda etc////And there are 49 other states with PJ’s locations that are stacking money today…..But still take advantage of our terrible economy and feed your family and friends cheap…..DONT TRY AN CALL JUST GO TO THE STORE!!!!! And all of you hatin on LeBron are just haters and jealous of the man….Dont hate…Congratulate!!!

    Reply
  17. Pop

    So it is okay for Lebron to dis his hometown by wearing a Yankees cap to an Indians game, but fans of the Wizards aren’t allowed to make fun of him? I am so tired of the Lebron-hype. He is not a god, he is an awesome baller but a POOR sport.

    Reply
  18. spapania

    dude i called in 4 times at my local store and walk right up and got them. Even though there were over 200 people in line waiting for pizzas. Patients People……all pizzas 23 cents….no scam

    Reply
  19. Stephen Laughs at You

    You’re joking? Well apparently it’s not just Lebron who’s a crybaby. All of his fans are no sport whiny babies as well! What good marketing for Papa Johns, I might just order them tonight.

    Seriously though, be good sportspeople. “I’m gonna boycott Papa Johns because they made fun of my favorite player,” is just pretty lame.

    Reply
  20. reformedfan

    I just want to share something with all of the posters on this site. I will be the first to admit that I was expecting (actually hoping) Lebron would let all of the hype blow hs career for him. I thought that he would prove to just be a neighborhood thug that had his 2 minutes in the spotlight. I am wlling to admit now that I was absolutely wrong, and am glad to say it!

    I live down the street from Mr. James, and occassionally see him at local establishments. He is always going out of his way to be courteous and respectful to everyone. That is no small task with the amout of attention he receives.

    I have seen his demeanor on the court and off as well. He has reformed me into a fan. He is well spoken–and like it or not–he is a good roll model (setting the whole marriage aside). He shows true sportsmanship and respect. My 11 year old son has learned great lessons from watching Lebron.

    Like it or not, Lebron has proven himself and I wish him the best!

    Reply
  21. @ DEBRA K. LESJAK

    What is wrong with you? Big surprise that offering essentially free pizza would make a store unbelievably busy. If any thing you should feel sorry for the participating Papa Johns. They are losing a lot of money over something someone in a different state did. And the offense was meaning less. The Cavs won that round of the playoff and if they lose this round it will be all the more meaningless. Also your caps lock key seems to be broken. Also get over your sense of entitlement. No one owes you anything.

    Reply
  22. PJ Worker

    Here is what the paper reported about our store…

    At the Boardman/Poland Papa John’s, the 23 cent pizza offer started at noon. Before the doors even opened, more than 50 hungry people had lined the Papa John’s building, 1307 Boardman Poland Road.

    Boardman Fire Department Lt. Tom Roberts, set the occupancy limit to four people to assure the employees of Papa John’s that there wouldn’t be a mad rush to the counter.
    Employees started making pizzas at 9 a.m. and had knocked out nearly 300 pies before noon.
    General Manager Mark Barkley waited on customers and didn’t skip a “thank you” or “have a great day.” Barkley, along with three other workers, were non-stop as the line of patrons continued to file into the store.

    Reply
  23. PJ Worker

    I slapped out pizzas from 10 AM until we closed the store at 4 PM after running out of dough and we could not make any more 23 cent pizzas.

    I am a DRIVER. I had *1* delivery and only made a $3 tip all day. We had the phones off because of the media circus this turned into.

    Seriously? We had only 5 scheduled people, some of which volunteered to come in and help today. It was a very grueling work day and it looked more like an assembly line at a plant than a restaurant.

    I wonder how many CAV’S FANS actually showed up at our location. It was the POOR, the BORED, the HUNGRY, and everyone but CAV’s FANS.

    PJ’s hopefully has learned something from all of this, but I doubt it. You got your $0.23 pizza. GET THIS… our manager, Mark Barkely had to work during this nightmare event ON HIS BIRTHDAY! He had his ID to proove it. POOR GUY! He is one of the nicest people I have ever seen with incredible politness. I was there… he joked and laughed with the customers and thanked every one.

    Our store team on THU was the best we could have asked for. LUCKILY, no one was HURT during this mass-chaos as ignorant people cut lines, got into fights, etc. We did call the police many times to try and disperse the crowd after we sold out and the doors were locked.

    Seriously, I didn’t know so many people would actually wait 3 HOURS in a line under these type of conditions just to buy a $0.23 pizza.

    Thanks D.C. PJ’s for *YOUR MONUMENTAL SCREW UP* and making our store, my day, etc., a living nightmare.

    I wonder how many of you “LAM3RZ” could have withstood what I endured today??? Was it worth $7 per hour? NO! We should have received BONUSES from CORP to keep the PROMISE that THEY made in order to save face and not lose any further market share from the events that took place. Did I get a bonus for this herculean effort? What do you think?

    Thank GOD it is FRIDAY! I am not sure if we are going to be open tomorrow, since we RAN OUT OF DOUGH on THU.

    GO CAVS!

    Reply
  24. Josh

    Oh no! Papa Johns has an opinion?! What?Boycott!!! Damn you Papa Johns for making a poke at a sports star! Think of all the blacks that wont order from there now! (I am sure the average tip/delivery will increase, at least)

    Reply
  25. Yorrick Van der Waal

    I already don’t eat Papa John’s because I caught them lying during their “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” campaign. They claimed that their restaurants had sauce specially made for them, yet I discovered several of their stores were using the same exact sauce as several other pizza parlors. They continued using this generic sauce for over a year. Now they have their own brand-specific cans of Papa John’s sauce, but they’re the same size as the old cans, the sauce looks and tastes the same, and the new cans have no info about who made it. I beleive they are still using the same generic pizza sauce that Domino’s, Minuteman, and other chains use, while claiming otherwise.

    I dislike LeBron James, could care less about the Cavaliers…but Papa John’s is just low-quality pizza.

    Reply
  26. Steve

    Put some tomato soup and provolone cheese on the shirt, and it would still taste 100 times better then a Papa Johns pizza!

    Reply
  27. Paula

    Wow there sure is a lot of “bawling” over some pizza and a t-shirt. Lebron is making “bank” over all of it too.

    Too funny.

    Cheers.

    Reply

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