Papa John's blames NFL for sales drop

Not resolving 'debacle' over players' protest cited by pizza company founder

Papa John’s International Inc. founder John Schnatter is going after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying weak handling of the league’s national anthem controversy has hammered sales of his pizza.

“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.”

The remarks follow a controversy over NFL football players protesting during the national anthem, a movement that started last season. The demonstrations have sparked calls for a boycott and raised concerns among league sponsors. But Schnatter’s comments mark the highest-profile example of an NFL partner publicly blaming the outcry for hurting business.

Goodell, whose contract is up for renewal, has taken flak for not resolving the controversy more quickly. The flap has even drawn tweets from President Donald Trump, who called for owners to fire or bench players who refuse to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said.

Papa John’s shares fell the most in eight months on Wednesday after third-quarter same-store sales missed analysts’ estimates. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company also trimmed its revenue and profit forecasts for the year.

Papa John’s has been the NFL’s official pizza sponsor since 2010. Schnatter, who founded the company in 1984, donated to Trump’s campaign and has railed against government regulations.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

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, then the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. The action spread across the NFL and got new life in recent weeks after Trump began criticizing the players.

Against that backdrop, ratings for the NFL are down this year. With fewer Americans watching games, fewer people are presumably ordering pizza — and seeing Papa John’s ads.

“This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” Schnatter 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.”

CONTINUE READING

MORE Business ARTICLES TO READ NEXT ...

CEDAR RAPIDS - Cargill's acquisition of Diamond V should change very little for the Cedar Rapids animal nutrition company, the CEOs for both said Friday.'This is a story about growth. This isn't a story about, how can we squeeze a ...

Axel's Sports Grill in Cedar Rapids will close at the end of the day Sunday. Riley's Restaurant Group and developer Todd Culver announced the closure Friday in a media relase. According to the release, a new restaurant from an Io ...

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.

Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.