What began as a joke — “this is IHOP’s MORAL OBLIGATION,” the announcement of the boycott continued — grew into a social media movement that caught the eye of Moses’s agent, local media members and eventually the California-based company. The multilayered story culminates Tuesday, when more than 65 IHOP locations in the D.C. area and Moses’s native Richmond will rename his go-to order — buttermilk pancakes filled with blueberries and topped with blueberry compote — in his honor for the day.
“I really never thought this was a possibility, I just thought it was a good laugh for everybody,” George Clessuras, 17, said in a phone interview. “It all happened so fast, and now here we are, ready to have pancakes.”
In addition to finally putting some respect — and syrup — on Moses’s name, IHOP will donate $7,600 to the Morgan Moses Foundation, which helps provide tutoring programs for high school kids in the area. A company spokeswoman said the Morgan Moses Pancakes promotion, which will appear on the online menus of participating restaurants and be available for takeout or delivery for one day only, is the first of its kind for the restaurant.
“This collaboration between IHOP and Morgan was an obvious fit — we both know how to pancake,” Brad Haley, IHOP’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “But it’s truly a testament to Morgan’s passionate fan base who helped make this connection a reality.”
Griff Clessuras, 15, started the Morgan Moses fan account in March.
“The idea randomly popped into my head,” he said. “You’ll see a fan page on Instagram for Chase Young or Terry McLaurin, but it’s rare you see one for an offensive lineman, so I thought it could be kind of funny.”
The account, which had more than 2,000 followers as of Monday, features memes celebrating Moses, who made his 96th consecutive start in Sunday’s playoff-clinching regular season finale at Philadelphia, the second-longest active streak among offensive tackles.
When the Clessuras brothers announced their IHOP campaign at the start of the season, they created an accompanying Change.org petition to land Moses a pancake endorsement. They called IHOP’s customer service line and distributed fliers that encouraged others to do the same.
“[IHOP] basically told us to stop calling them,” Griff said. “Eventually, enough people called that they started giving a scripted response.”
In mid-December, NBC Sports Washington wrote about the campaign, which gained steam when Washington Football Team fans began flooding the comments on IHOP’s Instagram posts with calls for Moses pancakes. Soon after, IHOP reached out to Andy Ross, Moses’s agent, to express interest in a promotion.
“It’s a crazy time,” Ross said in a phone interview. “A lot of these companies aren’t doing major marketing things [during the coronavirus pandemic], but IHOP really loved this because it kind of grew organically.”
Ross was familiar with the Clessuras brothers’ campaign before IHOP contacted him. In George and Griff, he said he saw a little bit of himself. In 1995, when he was a 17-year-old at Marshall High in Falls Church, Ross interned with sports agency Advantage International, where one of his first responsibilities was managing Grant Hill’s fan club. Ross would work for the company, which rebranded as Octagon, for 19 years.
“If you want to break into an industry that’s really hard to break into, you have to do something outside of the ordinary,” said Ross, who exchanged messages with George as the pancake promotion came together over the past two weeks. “You have to be driven. This program and this fan page got on my radar, it got on IHOP’s radar, and it turned into a deal. It’s pretty awesome to be a high school kid and have the foresight to do something like that.”
“Seeing my name on the menu on IHOP.com is definitely not something I ever thought would happen,” Moses said in a statement. “I feel blessed to have the support of the best fans in the world.”
Both brothers, who received a card from IHOP that entitles them to free pancakes for a year, said they planned to order the Moses special Tuesday. They also wouldn’t mind if it became more than a one-day event.
“We’re going to shock the world this weekend,” George said of Washington’s playoff matchup against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. “We’re really hoping if Morgan has a big game, they’ll run it back next week.”