Rap linked to Chiefs' Johnson stirs controversy in K.C.

Updated: September 15, 2007, 8:58 PM ET
By Elizabeth Merrill | ESPN.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dis, too, shall pass.

Larry Johnson
Rams Reyna-US PRESSWIREThe rap song purportedly performed by Larry Johnson is controversial even for the fifth-year Chief. His time in Kansas City has been anything but tranquil.

Mere hours before a road trip to Chicago, Kansas City coach Herm Edwards found himself fielding questions not about the Chiefs' anemic offense -- or the possibility of an 0-2 start -- but rather about rap music and MySpace pages. Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson is at the center of controversy, as a profanity-laced song full of racial slurs and criticism of the franchise appeared on the Internet with Johnson's name attached to it.

Although observers say the voice is a dead ringer for that of the Chiefs' outspoken back, Johnson, in a 29-second post-practice statement Friday that was much shorter than the alleged rap, denied any participation. His brother Tony, who also serves as his manager, said the song is probably the work of an impostor and that the family has shut down at least 30 Web sites purporting to have ties to Johnson in the past six months alone.

"Look, the closest thing my brother comes to rap is playing the guitar," Tony Johnson said. "I get a call that [says] he has this new rap called 'LJ Dissing.' I'm listening to it, and I'm like, 'This ain't Larry.' I know my brother. I know his voice if it's from singing in the shower or talking on a day-to-day basis. No way this is LJ. No way possible."

In his five years in Kansas City, Johnson has been blunt about everything from wanting the ball more to his perception of how the town, initially, didn't like him. But this alleged rap is controversial even for Johnson. It uses expletives in referring to Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson and takes a jab at veteran running back Priest Holmes.

In one line of the rap, it says that 31 -- Holmes' number -- is "embarrassing himself" in his comeback after 22 months of injury hiatus. Holmes, whose locker is next to Johnson's, was the Chiefs' No. 1 back before suffering a serious neck injury in 2005.

"Can I come back, can I come back?" the rap says. "And if you don't pay my money, I ain't never coming back. So f--- that."

Basement Entertainment owner James Tinberg told NBC affiliate KSHB that Johnson recently was at a party freestyle rapping and that the song was cut into a 3.5-minute rap. He told the station that the lyrics were edited to make Johnson "say funny stuff."

By late Friday night, the song was taken off the Web site and a note was posted saying the Johnson track was a fake to gain publicity, in part, for Basement Entertainment. The note apologized to "L.J. … [and] the Chiefs football team, for any problems or harm that may have been caused by our actions."

By Friday afternoon, Johnson had spoken to the Chiefs' front office, but Edwards declined to elaborate on the conversation. Neither Peterson nor Edwards listened to the rap. Edwards sounded incredulous when asked whether the controversy would affect Johnson's playing status Sunday against the Bears.

"Here's the concern -- in our society now, so many things come up on Web sites and Internet," Edwards said. "First of all, I don't even have the Internet. I wouldn't even know how to use it. There are a lot of things that happen that people are subject to, and you never know where it comes from. For me to sit here and try to be Inspector Clouseau and figure out who did it. … I can't do that. I've got to beat Chicago. I can't worry about stuff like this.

"He said whatever he had to say. He said, 'I'm not involved in it.' Why is it so hard for us anymore to believe somebody?"

An NFL spokesperson said Friday that the league is looking into the situation but that no action against Johnson was immediately planned.

Elizabeth Merrill is a senior writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached at merrill2323@hotmail.com.