The Cincinnati Bengals receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson said Thursday he’ll wear his old name on the back of his uniform for the rest of the season. It would have cost him a lot of money to make the switch for this year.
“We’ve just left it alone,” he said, in an interview. “I’ll just wait and do it next year.”
The Pro Bowl receiver legally changed his name to Ocho Cinco last August, shortly before the start of the season. Reebok, which produces NFL jerseys for sale to fans, had a large inventory of jerseys with his old name ready for sale.
The league respected the receiver’s name change, but said he couldn’t wear “Ocho Cinco” on the back of his jersey until he compensated Reebok for the old jerseys that would now be a tough sell.
Teammate Keith Rivers had to pay about $10,000 to change his number before the start of the season. The rookie linebacker wore No. 55 at Southern California, but got No. 58 when he joined the Bengals. No. 55 became available when linebacker Ahmad Brooks was released after the last preseason game.
It would have cost Ocho Cinco far more, given the popularity of his jersey. His No. 85 and quarterback Carson Palmer’s No. 9 are the ones most often seen around Cincinnati. The receiver declined to say exactly how much the switch would have cost him.
Ocho Cinco said he can get his new name on the back of jersey next season without having to compensate Reebok, which will be aware of the switch when it comes time to make more jerseys for sale to the public.
The receiver’s new name, of course, is a reference to his uniform number— it means “eight five” in Spanish. When the NFL celebrated Hispanic Heritage month in 2006, he wore it on the back of his uniform for pregame warmups, but had to remove it before the kickoff because of NFL rules; it wasn’t his real name.
He legally changed his name in his home state of Florida last August. The Bengals changed his name above his locker and on official statistics and notes before the season opener at Baltimore. The league was going to comply, but said the receiver had to first take care of the inventory of jerseys.
Until then, he wears “Johnson” on his jersey and is referred to that way in the league’s statistics.
“Stupid politics,” the receiver said.