Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and Chris Jackson (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) changed their names because of religion. It seems like the eccentric wide receiver just did it as a longer lasting joke.
“Chad is a creative guy and I think did this to be a little different,” said his agent Drew Rosenhaus. “I don’t think he did it purely for marketing reasons and I don’t think he views this as something permanent, either.”
If it were for marketing, things aren’t going too well. Fewer Ochocincos have come off the shelf since they began selling in March than Mayos, as in New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. Johnson's highest jersey ranking was at No. 9 following the 2006 season.
In October 2006, Johnson first unveiled “Ocho Cinco” on his jersey for a game in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Before the game, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer ripped off the “Ocho Cinco” to reveal the usual "C. Johnson" on the back of his jersey. Even though Johnson was fined $5,000 by the league, he went ahead and made the name change permanent less than two years later.
Johnson sells T-shirts on a site that read "Ocho Cinco," but the league will only let him wear and market official league products using the name as one word because that is how he filled it out on the name change application.
Ochocinco is meant to translate into his jersey number, 85, in Spanish, though even that isn't accurate. The number 85 in Spanish is actually ochenta y cinco.
Jerseys didn’t go on sale last season because the name change wasn’t made in time to notify the league and its apparel makers Reebok. Johnson then had a choice: Wait until the league determined that Ochocinco jerseys could be put on sale or buy out the “C. Johnson” Reebok jerseys, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If he did the latter, which no NFL player has ever done, Ochocinco jerseys would have hit shelves sooner.
As it turned out, people might not have bought the jerseys no matter what his name was. After six straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards receiving, Ochocinco only had 540 yards receiving and four touchdowns last season, the worst statistical year since his rookie year in 2001. It also didn’t help that the Bengals went 4-11-1 last season.
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