Papa John’s- An Update, and an Important Question

News of Cleveland’s displeasure with the pizza provider has certainly spread. Several internet sites have popularized the boycott, and the Plain Dealer posted a story on its website early Sunday morning. In it we learn two important pieces of information-

  1. These shirts were not authorized by the corporate office. No, really? You mean they didn’t have a marketing committee meeting where they said “I know, let’s join forces with Brendan Haywood, that genius, and help LeBron James get tagged a crybaby for his career!” Seriously, did anyone think that Mr. John himself has this idea?

  2. The Washington Wizards denied any knowledge of involvement whatsoever in the making or distribution of the shirts. One of the early stories had Papa John’s giving the Wizards shirts with just the PJ’s logo on them for Washington to do with what they pleased. Ok, that would have been a bad idea too, but certainly that might have earned Papa John’s a pass in my book, and made the Wizards the bad guy here. Assuming they are telling the truth, that means…

Someone who works for Papa John’s in the DC area decided to make a name for themselves. They thought that it would be clever to show support for the hometown team and print up a bunch of these shirts, and pass them out at the Verizon Center. Is that worth getting worked up about? You know what? Business decisions are made everyday that make or break companies. Someone needs to be accountable to this because they decided that one market is better, or more important than another. Someone decided that they didn’t care about the stores in Cleveland, and according to Papa John’s core values, they insist on being team players and they want to be held accountable.

Will this boycott go on forever? History tells us not, and I’m not sure that Cleveland fans really want that anyway. We do want some sort of apology and acknowledgement that we were slighted, or more importantly that LeBron James was slighted. Is there a possibility that this ‘crybaby’ tag sticks with him the rest of his career? Yep. I have to imagine that LeBron isn’t very happy with the pizza chain right about now. Regardless of what he may say publicly. Perhaps with this boycott Cleveland fans are trying to show LeBron that we care about him.

Which brings us here. What do we want? What can Papa John’s do to appease the Cleveland fan? If they showed up with free pizzas at the next game does that do it? If they print an apology in the Plain Dealer does that get them off the hook? Should someone lose their job? Do you want Papa John himself to ask LeBron’s forgiveness? How do you want this to end??? Because the last thing I want to see happen is Papa John’s make some lame attempt at an appology and turn it into a marketing campaign and free publicity. So let’s hear it Cleveland fans, what do you want from Papa John’s?


  • Scott

    No chance that PJ gets inside the Q. DiGiorno has that place on lock down.

    Truly, I have no idea what I want from the chain. I guess I just want them to realize that some asshat in the DC market thought it’d be a good idea to go out on his own and slap a logo on a t-shirt and then do something about it.

  • browns87fan

    Pass Out T-Shirts Printing this:

    3 Series Wins in 3 years
    (Scores of all the Games)
    Whos Crying Now?

  • Len

    I don’t wnat anything in return from Papa John’s. Some one should be held accountable, but probably won’t. I have never patronized any of their stores and you can be sure that I never will now. Cleveland has more pizza places than anywhere else in the US. This is a big blow to their franchises because if the people really stand behind a boycott, they can be closed very soon. I support the boycott. I thought the Wizards tactics were a joke too. An unclassy team and an unclassy restaurant. How does a corporation not know that their people are trying to pull off a stunt like this? It would not surprise me if Papa John’s was outside the Q at the next home game to hand out free coupons, but I’ll be more than happy to tell them to stick them up their ass when they try to hand me one.

  • Joe

    I would imagine that an apology from either PJ’s corporate or the franchise that was responsible (listed in order of likelihood, of course) would be sufficient.

    Further, I see on their website that (at least as of two days ago), a Ms. Tish Muldoon is the Director of Community & Public Relations, and can be contacted in Louisville at 502-261-4987. I certainly wouldn’t suggest leaving her flaming voicemails, but calling that number during normal business hours on Monday to civilly express displeasure and ask what PJ’s is planning on doing to improve their “community and public relations” in the greater Cleveland area after all the publicity they got on TV for the shirts might not be a bad idea.

    (Source: )

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  • jeff

    I think they should do the following:
    1. Provide damage control support for Cleveland area franchise owners who are being hurt by their bonehead move.

    2. If this was truly a result of a rogue franchise owner in DC, revoke the franchise.

    3. All kinds of public apologies in the media.

    4. A large, meaningful donation to a charity selected by Lebron.

    I agree that a boycott could actually harm local franchise owners and employees that had nothing to do with this. Instead, let’s flood corporate with calls, faxes and e-mails.

  • bowiemd1

    Wizards fan here: a little clarification. The Papa John’s crybaby t-shirts were not passed out at the game to the fans. A few fans (less than a dozen) were shown on the big screen wearing them. I don’t know where they got them. But the tees handed out to the fans had the usual “Go Wizards” stuff on them and weren’t sponsored by Papa Johns. The 3 sponsors for those were Geico, the Hair Cuttery, and the Washington Post if you’re interested in more boycotts. Me, I’m too busy boycotting the Love nightclub here in DC on behalf of my guy Deshaun Stevenson.

  • RockKing

    You mean DeShawn?

  • bowiemd1

    Yeah, DeShawn. For some reason spellchecker never catches that one. I have learned that its Stevenson, not Stephenson though. Thanks for the correction.

  • RockKing

    My pleasure.

  • chadini

    I live in Indianapolis and as a native Clevelander, I’m boycotting Papa Johns as well. There are enough local pizza places I can hit for a pizza fix. I would however like Papa Johns to offer an apology and make some sort of donation in LeBron’s name. I would hope that something good could come of this as opposed to a stack of free pizza coupons.

  • Rick

    That’s a good idea Chadini. I’m with you that I don’t want this to end with free pizza. Maybe a donation to the boys and girls clubs of Cleveland or something? But like you say, not in Papa John’s name as a tax write off that they would normally do anyway.

  • Sarah Tonan

    In these trying economic times everyone is looking for ways to save some scratch… I won’t be eating Papa John’s pizza, and I might as well cancel my subscription to the fish-wrap known as The Cleveland Plain Dealer for re-writing the information on this site while only crediting “bloggers”. Did someone go to journalism school to get that nose for news?

    I got two words for ya pal: Bill Livingston.

  • Rick

    Thanks Sarah, appreciate the thought…

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  • JakeTheSnake

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s pretty obvious who made these shirts.

    Pizza Hut.

    Corporate sabotage baby!

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  • Keane

    First off who actually eats Papa Johns while sober. There pizza is some of the worst chain pizza on the planet. I think only domino’s is worse. We all would much rather eat Angelo’s or where ever our local oven is. As to the corporate offices what they should do, nothing. There is nothing they can do to make this right. The sided with a bunch of thugs disguised as basketball players over perhaps the best player in the NBA. Nothing they say or do will make this right with everyone in Cleveland that is offended. […the rest of this comment has been moderated due to explicit content…]

  • Sarah Tonan

    I think a Cleveland-based charity offering equal or greater than the upswing in DC sales would satisfy my angst… and I suspect if enough people respectfully put that to Ms. Tish Muldoon, it’ll happen. Look at how much money was raised for charity in NYC from that buried Red Sox jersey.

    I’ll set the bar: $25,000 to Shoes and Clothes for Kids, and a pizza party for said kids to watch the game on a big projection screen.

  • Sarah Tonan

    …and if the PD wants to match that, I’ll forgive them too. :-)

  • Rick

    A pizza party is a nice touch…

  • The Seaward

    As I said on SoN today, I think there needs to also be some sort of reprisal on the Washington front office, and I don’t think Papa John’s telling the Wiz to take a long walk off a short pier would be the worst move for them. The Wizards’ front office has proven themselves to be model idiots through their entire stay in the 2008 postseason.

  • Eli has the story that PJ’s is giving $10K to the Cavaliers Youth Fund and then using it as a little advertising and selling 23 cent pizzas on Thursday this week in Cleveland. I like the charity and the drivers should be happy since I know I would tip a guy at least $3-4 to bring me $.23 pizza. But then again, I don’t eat PJ’s anymore.

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  • Sarah Tonan

    That’s kinda cheesy.