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You can follow Charles Robinson on Twitter at @YahooSportsNFL
A few months ago, social media analysts wondered aloud who would be the first highly visible athlete to take a major public misstep with his Twitter account. Sunday night, Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson(notes) appeared to answer that question in a big way.
In a string of messages that could carry serious repercussions from his team and potentially the NFL, the oft-troubled and mercurial star used his Twitter account (@ToonIcon) to call out the professional pedigree of head coach Todd Haley shortly after the Chiefs' 37-7 home loss to the San Diego Chargers. That message was followed up with an exchange with another Twitter user, in which a homophobic slur was used.
In his first round of messages, which were posted shortly after the loss, Johnson references his father, Larry Johnson Sr., a onetime Washington Redskins player and the current defensive line coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions. He compares Haley's lack of NFL playing experience (Haley was never an NFL player) with that of his father.
Johnson's exact Twitter messages, in chronological order:
• "my father got more creditentials than most of these pro coaches. … google my father!!!!!!!"
• "My father played for the coach from "rememeber the titans". Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefley. Our coach. Nuthn"
Following those messages, an exchange appeared between Johnson's account and another Twitter user, in which the other user made a reference to an incident in which Johnson pled guilty to disturbing the peace after allegedly spitting into the face of a female patron at a nightclub. A message on Johnson's account referred to the other Twitter user's profile picture with a homophobic slur, calling it a "[expletive] pic" and called the user a "Christopher street boy." Christopher Street is a well-known New York City street which became famous as a symbol for the city's gay-pride movement.
The message posted in Johnson's account containing the homophobic slur read:
• "think bout a clever diss then that wit ur [expletive] pic. Christopher street boy. Is what us east coast cats call u."
The final message of the night on Johnson's account read:
• "Make me regret it. Lmao. U don't stop my checks. Lmao. So "tweet" away."
Regarding the messages referencing Haley, Johnson's agent, Peter Schaffer, told ESPN.com his client's messages about his father were not meant as a slight.
"I talked to Larry about it and he was focusing more on pumping up his father than anything else," Schaffer told ESPN.com. "He wasn't trying to downgrade anyone … yes, everyone is frustrated after a loss like this but I wouldn't put too much into it."
Clearly, it has been a frustrating season for Johnson. Through seven games, the former Pro Bowler is averaging a career-worst 2.7 yards per carry, rushing the ball 132 times for 358 yards and no touchdowns. He's one of many players struggling mightily for the 1-6 Chiefs, who are in the midst of a massive overhaul under the direction of general manager Scott Pioli and Haley.
Johnson has had four arrests for various degrees of battery since being drafted by the Chiefs in 2003. One charge was pled down, with Johnson serving time in a domestic violence diversion program. A second charge was dropped, while two other charges – including the aforementioned spitting incident – were reduced to disturbing the peace. Johnson received probation for a guilty plea in the latter two charges.
The spitting incident resulted in a one-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Prior to serving the league-mandated penalty, Johnson missed the Chiefs' previous three games for violation of team rules.