The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

Once Benign Now Malignant

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A lot of results turn up when you Google "Chad Ochocinco" or "Chad Johnson" and 'cancer." Most of them are bad and speak to Ochocinco's history as a distraction, a "me first" teammate, and a class clown.

Some of these search results refer to one of player's more popular gags. This is the famous "Pepto incident" where the player, then known as Chad Johnson, sent the Cleveland Brown's defensive secondary packages of Pepto Bismol. He sent the nausea treatment prior to a meeting of the division rivals "because I'm going to make them sick." The entire effort came about because of Johnson's and Cincinnati-based Proctor & Gamble's effort to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was witty, it was funny, it was great marketing and it was for a great cause.

Cleveland's Daylon McCutchen was said to have enjoyed Chad's gift. "I think for the most part, [Johnson] is not an in-your-face guy. He just likes to have fun. He enjoys playing football. He's a jokester."

Unfortunately, the gimmick didn't help because the Browns beat the Bengals 34-17. But the effort helped raise awareness for Breast Cancer, gave sportswriters and fans plenty to chuckle about and probably added to the drama .

But McCutchen's perception of Ochocinco as a "jokester" is spot on. The NFL has rules about end zone celebrations and excessive distractions, and Johnson (when that was his name) drew his share of fines for these celebrations. The No Fun League has been seen as something of old school nun, sitting at the head of a classroom with a ruler ready to smack those who get out of line. The public felt Johnson was unfairly singled out. Even The Onion wrote "NFL Fines Chad Johnson For Elaborate Catch" in 2007.

Today, things are a little different. The relationship between the Bengals and Ochocinco has deteriorated and the player has only himself to blame. On top of poor play on the field, Ochocinco made a big mistake that made a bad situation worse: he allowed frustration over a slump in play to escalate into a very public and ugly battle with his employer. He even went so far as to say "Call me, Dan" in an open invitation to Redskins' owner Dan Snyder to broker a trade with the Bengals.

Chad's antics (circa 2007) were humorous and players like him who put up serious numbers but don't take themselves too seriously are a welcome addition to my Sundays. Even as the NFL rightly enforces its rules on such antics, I'm certain, back then, the old school nun winked at Chad Johnson once or twice in appreciation of his unique style.

Today players who pout when they don't get what they want ARE truly a cancer.

Give me 2007 Chad Johnson any day. You can keep 2008 Ochocinco.

By Jason Maloni  |  June 22, 2009; 12:12 PM ET  | Category:  Cincinnati Bengals Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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