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Friday, Oct. 1, 2010
 

Chad Ochocinco loved his jersey number so much that the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver formally changed his surname to reflect it. Now, the cereal box that bears his name must change its toll-free number.

Instead of 1-800, make that 1-OchoOchoOcho...

Unless you are 18 or older.

Pittsburgh-based PLB Sports Inc., the same company that terminated its five-year business relationship with Ben Roethlisberger and ended its line of "Big Ben's Beef Jerky" in April after the Steelers quarterback was accused of sexual assault, is removing boxes of "OchocincO's" cereal from Kroger store shelves after producing packages with a phone number that directed consumers to an explicit phone sex line instead of a children's charity.

A portion of proceeds from the limited-edition cereal goes to Feed The Children, a nonprofit relief organization that delivers food, medicine and clothing to those in need. Instead, callers were connected to the sound of a woman's voice who tried to gather details of their debit and credit cards.

PLB Sports Inc. declined comment Thursday but issued a statement apologizing "for the printing of the incorrect Feed the Children toll-free number on OchocincO's Cereal boxes that are available in the Cincinnati market" and claimed that it "will be immediately pulling the product from the Kroger shelves due to this mistake."

The statement also said PLB Sports Inc. will reprint the OchocincO's cereal boxes with the correct toll-free number, which is 1-888-HELP-FTC. The box mistakenly listed it as a 1-800 line.

Ochocinco, never one to shy from the spotlight, apologized for offending anyone but used it as an opportunity to bring awareness to the causes.

"It's a little bit of a negative, but it sheds a positive light on what I'm doing," Ochocinco told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "They have to get the right number, 1-888-HELP-FTC. Not 800. If you dial 800, you're on your own."

The news raised eyebrows around the country that a Bengals player would use a Pittsburgh-based marketing company, given the spirited AFC North rivalry with the Steelers. PLB Sports Inc. also produces "City of Champions" cereal featuring the likenesses of Steelers Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward and Penguins Stanley Cup Game 7 hero Max Talbot.

An AOL Fanhouse report jokingly blamed Ward, whose blindside block broke the jaw of Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers in 2008. Dayton Daily News writer Ken Paxson blogged that it could be Steelers sabotage along the lines of Kimo von Oelhoffen's hit on the knee of Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer that caused a torn ACL in the 2006 AFC playoffs.

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