Papa John’s International Inc. founder John Schnatter is blaming a sharp drop in pizza sales on the NFL’s poor handling of the league’s national-anthem controversy.
NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart confirmed to Sports Business Journal that Papa John’s had expressed concerns with the league’s latest controversy and said that other top sponsors have expressed similar concerns as the NFL’s TV viewership has fallen 5% overall from the same point last year.
“The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” Schnatter, who serves as the pizza chain’s chairman and chief executive officer, said on a conference call. “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.”
NFL players began kneeling during the national anthem more than a year ago — starting with a protest against racial inequality and police brutality by
Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the national anthem more than a year ago to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
His action soon spread across the NFL and got new life last month after Trump began criticizing the players and calling on fans to boycott the NFL if the league didn’t crack down on protests. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence left an Indianapolis Colts game after San Francisco 49ers’ players took a knee during the anthem.
After meeting with team owners last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided not to force players to stand for the national anthem, a move which appears to have angered Schnatter.
“This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” Schnatter, who founded the company in 1984, said on the call. “Like many sponsors, we’re in touch with the NFL. Once the issue is resolved, we’re optimistic the NFL’s best years are ahead.”
In 2012, Schnatter warned that President Obama’s health care law would cause the price of pizza to go up.
Schnatter also donated to Trump’s campaign and has railed against government regulations.
The NFL may be part of the problems Papa John’s faces, but it’s far from the only one. The stock is down 24% this year, while competitors including Domino’s () have performed well (Domino’s stock is up 12% this year).
It’s hard to quantify the connection between the NFL and pizza sales, but Papa John’s did post disappointing results in the latest quarter. Its shares fell as much as 13 percent on Wednesday — the most in two years — after same-store sales missed analysts’ estimates. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company also trimmed its revenue and profit forecasts for the year.
Many Twitter users weren’t buying Schnatter’s excuses.
Colin Kaepernick has done it now, taking dollars away from the billionaire founder of a pizza franchise. I'll alert the media. #PapaJohns
— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) November 1, 2017
Papa Johns puts tomato soup on cardboard and threw Peyton Manning’s long head ass on a commercial and blaming black players lmaoooooo
— Chiefs 6-😐 (@tattedykdub) November 1, 2017
“Man no way am I eating Papa Johns until those NFL players stop kneeling” that doesn’t even make sense lol
— Matthew Jaeger (@Da_RealMJaeger) November 1, 2017
Papa Johns is the Cleveland Browns of pizza.
— Just Dave ⛏ (@El_Daverino) November 1, 2017
Papa Johns would rather blame poor sales on NFL players kneeling than accept the fact that Little Caesars Hot N Ready is for the people.
— Marcella Arguello (@marcellacomedy) November 1, 2017
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) November 1, 2017
This is a bold new marketing campaign by Papa Johns pizza: pic.twitter.com/vOXDchwoYH
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) November 1, 2017
First Papa Johns blames Obamacare, now the NFL
Maybe your pizza just sucks, like your judgement?
— Jemisha (@jemisha_johnson) November 1, 2017
If Papa Johns think their numbers have been hurt, it will only get worst after today.
— Royal Priest 🇺🇸 (@MLCHZDK) November 1, 2017
Hey @PapaJohns, I would wager that your sales are about to drop even lower. Maybe you should invest in better ingredients of the soul.
— J.D. Evermore (@jd_evermore) November 1, 2017
OOOOH NOOO! Will John Schnatter have to sell is castle now, cuz NFL players care about cops EXECUTING black people?
Poor poor Papa Johns. pic.twitter.com/cagThx0gam
— Pin Head (@PiercedCranium) November 1, 2017
Papa Johns pizza tastes like scapegoat cheese with ketchup on a crust of stale excuses.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) November 1, 2017