As Larry Johnson nears the Kansas City Chiefs' all-time rushing record, more than 10,000 fans have signed an online petition pleading for team officials to deactivate the running back after he posted homosexual slurs on his Twitter account.
The petition — which has garnered 10,716 signatures as of early Thursday — calls on general manager Scott Pioli to act before Johnson, 29, surpasses running back Priest Holmes for the team rushing record.
"We are asking you, as fans of this team, this organization, and of the pride that this city has in the Chiefs, please deactivate Larry Johnson," the petition reads. "Please do not let his name sit atop the all-time rushing leaders in Kansas City Chiefs history. He needs a mere 80 yards to surpass Priest. He doesn't deserve that opportunity."
Johnson, a former Pro Bowler, was suspended late last month for conduct detrimental to the team after he questioned coach Todd Haley's qualifications and posted two homosexual slurs on his Twitter account, including one in which he called another user a "Christopher street boy," an apparent reference to New York City's Christopher Street, which is synonymous with the city's gay-pride movement.
"Larry Johnson is a disgrace to the NFL and should not be allowed to play because of his behavior and the remarks that he has made," petitioner Patrick Gilman wrote.
Another petitioner, Jason Shukeat, called Johnson an "embarrassment" to the 1-6 Chiefs, who are mired in last place in the AFC West.
"It will be a travesty if he is allowed to return from his latest misconduct," Shukeat wrote. "Between beating women and voicing slurs toward fans and media, there is absolutely no reason this trash should even have a job, much less become the franchise's all-time leading rusher. With new management and coaching this year, Johnson needs to be gone to show that the attitude within the organization has changed and that we will not stand for thugs on this team."
Since being drafted by the Chiefs in 2003, Johnson has been arrested four times for various degrees of battery, including one incident in which the Maryland native pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace after allegedly spitting in the face of a woman at a Kansas City nightclub.
Johnson later received two years' probation and was ordered to attend a domestic violence diversion program for an earlier arrest. In 2007, Johnson signed a five-year contract extension that could be worth up to $45 million, including $19 million guaranteed.
Bob Moore, director of public relations for the Chiefs, said the team would not comment on the petition. Johnson will return to the team next week following his suspension and $315,000 penalty.
"He's due to come back next Monday," Moore said.
Johnson's agent, Peter Schaffer, did not return calls seeking comment Thursday. He told The Associated Press that Johnson has learned from the incident.
"Larry apologized," Schaffer said. "He learned from it and hopefully other people learned from it. My hope is that people learn that something positive can come out of this and that there are words that should not be used because they demean people."
Johnson's comment led Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Allaince Against Defamation, to call on the NFL and the Chiefs to take disciplinary actions against the running back, calling the incident a chance to educate on the "dangers of homophobia" in sports.
Through a spokesman, Johnson apologized for the incident on Oct. 22.
"I regret my actions," he said. "The words were used by me in frustration, and they were not appropriate. I did not intend to offend anyone, but that is no excuse for what I said."
Johnson continued, "I'm going to work to that point to get my life back on track and know that I and I alone put myself in these critical situations and environments to where things don't come out favorably to me."
Despite the apology, Kansas City fans are still calling for Johnson's helmet.
"Allowing Larry Johnson to attain a record is something that can never be erased," the petition reads. "In a year where the team is trying to look toward the future with many young players, please don’t add to the collective morose this city is feeling by allowing one of the truly great players, people, and role models in this city’s sporting history to be replaced in the record books by someone who we don’t like and who doesn’t like us."