John Schnatter, better known as ‘Papa John,’ the CEO and Founder of the pizza chain by the same name, is stepping down from the company after criticizing the NFL’s handling of the player protests – a move that probably was not too smart for a company that is to tightly tied to football.
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has stepped down as CEO of the company he founded, two months after criticizing the NFL’s handling of the player-led anthem protests.
Schnatter made comments critical of NFL leadership, and their handling of the NFL anthem protest issue, in November.
At the time, Papa John’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Robert Thompson said, “The NFL is crucial to Papa John’s business. The company began its partnership with the NFL in 2010 and has ‘Preferred Pizza’ partnerships with 23 NFL teams. Last year, the company signed a multi-year partnership with the NFL and the Super Bowl.
“Our partnership with the NFL, in particular, has been exceptional. One of the reasons the NFL is such a strong marketing opportunity is because of the number of people that watch the games live whether it be at home or in the stadium.”
Schnatter said in a company conference call, “The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.”
Papa John’s cited falling sales, as the impetus behind their concerns, and decision to speak out against NFL leadership. However, after the company received a significant backlash from the media, in addition to Nazi websites labeling the company the “official Pizza of the Alt-Right,” Papa John’s backtracked.
Schnatter eventually apologized for his public criticism of the league, and, in a series of tweets from the company account, lauded the efforts of the protesters to “create a platform for change.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, “Schnatter will be replaced as chief executive by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on Jan. 1, the company announced Thursday. Schnatter, who appears in the chain’s commercials and on its pizza boxes, and is the company’s biggest shareholder, remains chairman of the board.”
Are you surprised by this move from Papa John? Does this change your opinion of the company at all?