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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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!


    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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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)

  8. 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.

  9. Steve

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

  10. 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.



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