Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco is learning first-hand how seriously the NFL takes its ability to license players and their names.Before he can wear a jersey with his new surname emblazoned on the back, he first must buy every "C. Johnson" jersey for sale nationwide. And there are thousands of "C. Johnson" replica jerseys available, with a production cost of about $48 apiece."When a player requests a name change or a number change, the player is responsible for that unsold inventory," NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said.
Ochocinco (one word) became the receiver's legal surname Aug. 28. But he is called Chad Ocho Cinco (two words) on the team's official roster.Replica jerseys are made by Reebok, the official licensee of NFL apparel. Reebok declined to say how much "C. Johnson" inventory is sitting unsold in stores.A CNBC report on Monday said the jerseys, which retail for about $75 each, could cost Ocho Cinco $48 per jersey, the cost of production.At Koch Sporting Goods in downtown Cincinnati, the number of "C. Johnson" jerseys in stock is "in the hundreds," owner Chris Koch said.He said that the expected sales increases for "Ocho Cinco" jerseys would probably offset any profits lost from a decline in value of the "C. Johnson" jerseys.By making Ocho Cinco wear "C. Johnson," the NFL says it is protecting its contractual obligation to Reebok, which has been the league's outfitter since 2001.
While McCarthy could not recall any player in recent history wanting to change his name, most players who want to change numbers rethink their decision after they find out how expensive it could be to purchase the unsold jerseys.One exception is Bengals rookie linebacker Keith Rivers, who reportedly paid about $11,000 to change his number from 58 to 55.What makes Ocho Cinco's situation unusual is the publicity surrounding the name change. Reebok now has an interest in selling "Ocho Cinco" jerseys - spokesperson Mandy Murphy said the company simply is following the league's leadership on the current "Ocho Cinco" ban.
Both Reebok and the NFL said a resolution hopefully will be reached soon, though neither said whether it would happen before the Bengals play at home against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
"Reebok certainly has an economic incentive to let him change the name," said Matt Mitten, the director of Marquette University's National Sports Law Institute. "But what's happening here is that the league is strictly relying upon its licensing agreement. It's worried that if players could change their names or numbers on a whim, then that's going to hurt the NFL's licensing agreement in the long term." Reebok is in the midst of a 10-year, $250 million licensing agreement with the NFL, and those kinds of sponsorship dollars are invaluable, sports legal analyst Keith Dobkowski said. He pointed out that the Bengals made $194 million in revenue in 2007, but only $44 million of it came from gate receipts and $11.7 from operating revenue, figures that were reported by Forbes.com."In order for Reebok to get their return on investment, they must create certain exclusivities in their contract with the NFL," he said. "In this case, I would suspect that the NFL will allow Johnson to update his uniform once Reebok has the time to create 'Ocho Cinco' uniforms to place in stores across the country."
For now, Koch said stores such as his can't order "Ocho Cinco" jerseys from Reebok. He said his store has been replacing the "C. Johnson" nameplate with a customized "Ocho Cinco" one when fans place special orders or bring Ocho Cinco's No. 85 jersey into the store.If the "Ocho Cinco" jersey is approved for on-field use and sale by the NFL, it could be lucrative not only for retailers, Reebok and the NFL, but also for Ocho Cinco. Players receive a portion of the revenue from their jersey sales. The "C. Johnson" jersey finished last season as the 14th-most popular, according to NFLShop.com, and an "Ocho Cinco" change could drive popularity back into the top 10. Local sports investment analyst Adam Wolter expects "Ocho Cinco" merchandise and signatures to be substantially more valuable than "C. Johnson" in the short term. He figured a replica jersey signed "Chad Johnson" might be worth $200, but a jersey signed "Chad Ocho Cinco" with the name "Ocho Cinco" on the back could be worth $400.
"No doubt there's going to be more demand right now for Ocho Cinco," Wolter said.
Damn Chad. Life is sucking for you right now. You didn't get the money you thought the Bengals should've broke you off in a new contract during the offseason.
You then came up with the idea that if you changed your name that you could generate revenue through merchandise to make up for the money you didn't get, only Reebok cock-blocked you and now you have to actually buy all of the old jerseys to get the new ones making the profit from this stunt in the long run not worth it.
'08 hasn't been kind to you.