Papa John's: Pizza-chain founder blames National Football League protests for slow sales

Papa John's: Pizza-chain founder blames National Football League protests for slow sales

"The NFL has hurt us and, more importantly, by not resolving the current debacle to the player and owner's satisfaction, NFL leadership has hurt's Papa John's", Schnatter told CNBC.

Sports rating figures are down across America this year. Papa John's shares slumped about 4.2% during the controversy, Forbes reported. He specifically cited the anthem protests as the root of the problem.

Papa John's CEO John Schnatter blamed National Football League anthem protests for lower-then-expected sales this week, which opened the company up to ruthless mocking on the internet.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners said at the league's fall meetings last month that they did not discuss altering the anthem policy language from "should stand" to "must stand". However, others roasted the Papa John's founder for blaming players protesting racial inequality for poor sales, as opposed to acknowledging subpar pizza could have played a role.

Schnatter slammed the NFL's top leadership for not "nipping this in the bud" when the protests were begun over a year ago by then 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. And so the controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country, and that's the big difference here.

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Later in the day, a spokesman clarified that the [television] spots themselves weren't being pulled [from National Football League games], just the National Football League shield or "official sponsor" designation on those spots.

The backlash was swift, with many promising to boycott Papa John's in response to Schnatter's comments. The company also cut its earnings growth expectations for the year and Papa John's stock fell about 10 percent. Eight years later, Jones appeared in a Papa John's commercial, where he rapped through the whole thing. Pizza Hut said Thursday that sales rose 1 percent at its established locations worldwide and were flat in the United States, an improvement from past quarters.

Yum Brands is the parent company of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell.

On Wednesday, Papa John's founder and CEO chalked up lower-than-expected sales on the NFL's declining ratings following players' protests.

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