Papa John's, NFL end partnership in wake of anthem protest flap, declining sales

If you’re a fan of corny commercials featuring prominent NFL faces peddling mediocre pizza while you watch football, we’ve got bad news.

The NFL and Papa John’s broke up on Tuesday.

The pizza chain announced the news during an earnings call Tuesday afternoon.

“We will shift our marketing from the broader NFL sponsorship,” CEO Steve Ritchie said on a conference call with investors.

The NFL and Papa John’s released a joint statement that the pizza chain will still do business on a regional level with teams in 22 markets.

Papa John’s announced in its earnings report that sales fell by 3.9 percent in the fourth quarter with executives citing “negative consumer sentiment.”

Former CEO and face of the company John Schnatter stepped down from his role leading the company on Jan. 1 after his statement during a November conference call criticizing the NFL for its handling of players protesting social justice issues during the national anthem.

“The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” Schnatter said on the call, as reported by Bloomberg. “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders. Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”

Papa John’s has cut ties with the NFL after seeing its sales and shares plummet. (Reuters)
Papa John’s has cut ties with the NFL after seeing its sales and shares plummet. (Reuters)

Schnatter made the statement after watching shares of the company plummet by more than 30 percent.

There was also speculation that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who owns more than 100 Papa John’s franchises and took a hard line against player protests during the anthem, had a role in Schnatter’s statement.

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The statement drew widespread criticism while also garnering support from white supremacists on social media.

Papa John’s stock tanked another 13 percent after Schantter’s statement, prompting a public apology and acknowledgment of its newfound support from neo-Nazis on Twitter.

Papa John’s had been the official pizza of the NFL since 2010. Shares of the company were down more than six percent in after-market trading at the time of this post.

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