Papa John's CEO Blames NFL Protests On Poor Pizza Sales

John Schattner

Papa John's has been the NFL's official pizza sponsor since 2010.

As reported by ESPN and others, Papa John's founder and CEO John Schnatter said Wednesday that the protests have rubbed off on his pizza chain, an official National Football League sponsor, and Papa John's executives said they had pulled some NFL-associated advertising in response.

In September, the debate leaped from living rooms and bars to the White House, with President Donald Trump advising team owners to fire players who failed to stand for the song.

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"The NFL has been a long and valued partner over the years but we are certainly disappointed that NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties", Schnatter said during an earnings call Wednesday.

"NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders", CEO John Schnatter fumed during a conference call with Wall Street analysts. That's because some people are boycotting watching games while players kneel during the National Anthem, so that means fewer people see Papa John's ads and decide to order pizza.

The NFL did not respond to the Washington Post's request for comment.

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"Like Subway in recent years, Papa John's has invested in athletes to market their products", Darren Tristano, a foodservice trend expert, told CNBC via email. Maybe. But is it also possible that Papa John's is suffering due to innovation from competitors (Domino's, for example, is doing well), the rise of DoorDash and Grubhub, or the fact that their pizza isn't the greatest? The stock is down 24% this year, while competitors including Domino's have performed well (Domino's stock is up 12% this year). Ergo, Papa John's woes are the NFL's fault.

"The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country", Schnatter said.

While Papa John's has apparently started pulling its NFL TV advertising, the league is trying to save the relationship by offering more future spots.

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I was singing HaTikvah from my heart. "Israel is my country, and I'm proud to be Israeli", Flicker told reporters. Three Israeli athletes won bronze medals Saturday, bringing the total medal count at the event to five.

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