- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Chad Johnson is the 12th-most followed athlete on Twitter. Take out the international soccer stars and he is fourth behind only Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Basketball is an international game. American football is not.
Johnson has built a tremendous brand for himself in social media by being as accessible as he is to fans. One could argue that he is actually worth putting on a team that is struggling in the marketing department, as the Miami Dolphins certainly are. Obviously the merits of the audience that listens to him have their limits (see: his domestic violence arrest and the team subsequently cutting him).
If Johnson weren't as big as he was in social media, he wouldn't have gotten a prime-time show about his life with his new wife, Evelyn Lozada. That's gone too, by the way. VH1 announced it had canceled the show Monday after the events that took place over the weekend.
While many make fun of Twitter's return on investment, I could see a day where a player gets a roster spot because of the place he or she holds in the social media world. If the salary is right -- Johnson was scheduled to be paid $925,000 this season -- the deal could easily be rationalized.
When you look at the list below of most followed athletes on Twitter, think about the fact that Johnson has scored only five touchdowns over the past two seasons. Right behind Johnson on the list? Lance Armstrong. More than a million followers behind Johnson? Tiger Woods.
Most-Followed Athletes On Twitter
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano), 12.4 million followers
2. Kaka (@KAKA), 12.3 million followers
3. Shaquille O'Neal (@SHAQ), 6.1 million followers
4. LeBron James (@KingJames), 5.8 million followers
5. Neymar (@Njr92), 5 million followers
6. Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney), 4.7 million followers
7. Ronaldinho (@10Ronaldinho), 4.4 million followers
8. Andres Iniesta (@andresiniesta8), 4.2 million followers
9. Cesc Fabregas (@cesc4official), 3.9 million followers
10. Gerard Pique (@3gerardpique), 3.78 million followers
11. Dwyane Wade (@DwyaneWade), 3.71 million followers
12. Chad Johnson (@ochocinco), 3.67 million followers