Nov 15, 2017, 9:14 AM ET

Papa John's apologizes for criticizing NFL anthem protests


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Papa John's Pizza apologized Tuesday night for comments made by CEO John Schnatter blaming sluggish pizza sales on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based company is a major NFL sponsor and advertiser, and Schnatter said on an earnings call on Nov. 1 that "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders" and that the protests "should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago."

The company tweeted a statement offering to "work with the players and league to find a positive way forward."

"The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive," it said. "That definitely was not our intention.

"We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players' movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both."

The movement was started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled to protest what he said was police mistreatment of blacks. More players began kneeling after President Donald Trump said at an Alabama rally in September that team owners should get rid of players who protest during the anthem.

Papa John's added that it is "open to ideas from all. Except neo-Nazis." It previously has tried to distance itself from white supremacists who praised Schnatter's comments, saying it does not want those groups to buy its pizza.

The company's stock has fallen by nearly 13 percent since Schnatter's comments.


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  • katerant

    Football viewership was already falling before Don the Con made his divisive comments. And be sure and look up his history with the NFL, who banned him from owning a team.
    Don the Con is a vengeful unstable person.
    Do you see what Don the Con did there? Divide and conquer. Then give us to Russia.

  • Tom Fibi

    Shares dropped 13% since the comments, time for a new CEO, perhaps one that does not force himself into the company’s commercials.

  • mountainlady

    Too little, too late. Especially for mediocre pizza.

  • Kamau Thabiti

    the conservative have only recently honor this flag and they are the main people who protest Black people as we strive for our freedom. just like those statues of racist slavery advocates, which were put up as a protest against the 1954 rights bill.
    these white supremacists don't ever want Black people to be free (free of them and their exploitative actions). 500 plus years is a long time, well any time is a long time to hold a person, in this case a entire people in bondage and use us a financial asset to white people.
    but we will break free of your asses. Amandla

  • linmarco

    Is there a law saying one must stand for the playing of the national anthem? People go to a game to see players vie against one another while giving the best performance possible. Football games are entertainment
    and not patriotic events.

  • Arijit Thakur

    Both the comments and the apology seem to have been inspired by the same concern - that for business. Vive la free market!

  • Kobrakai7272

    The funny thing about selling any consumer good is that, if you give people a reason to avoid your product, even briefly, it can serve as the impetus for them to try out some competitors and, often, to come to the realization that your competitors have a better product. Oops.

  • Former Earthling

    Their pizza sucks and having to watch that weird looking dude with eye mascara in their commercials is the reason why sales are down.

  • Walking Fool

    Why apologize? PJ is right.

    Many people stopped watching football, and since they are no longer exposed to the ads, they don't buy. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out.


    Papa is a prime example of why trickle-down economics is such a dismal failure.

    "If our business is successful and achieves excessive profits, we are under no obligation to share it with our workers" - Papa John

  • David Dove

    I agree if the product was better they'd have better sales numbers. They should try keeping papa out of commercials and the limelight. I disagree this is a political protest by the players. Its a civil rights protest, and wonder does anyone have numbers on how many law enforcement officials have been prosecuted and found guilty in a court of law since kapernick started kneeling last year.

  • Kobrakai7272


    Maybe... just maybe... billionaire business owners should, you know, spend a little bit more time listening to their customers and a little less time taking advice from billionaire sports franchise owners. And, while we are at it, that billionaire sports franchise owner might just want to spend a bit more time trying to make his team competitive and a little less time giving business advice to pizza shop owners. They'd both be better off.

  • Ruben Delgadillo

    Blacks don't eat that much pizza.

  • Dick Enya

    Surprised he isn't blaming Hillary's e-mails for decline in sales of his crap "pizza".

  • Weather3014

    The NFL is trying to get more sponsors but has an uphill climb with decreased ticket sales and TV viewing audience. The real story here is that other potential sponsors are going to be leery of getting into any agreement with the league with such a polarizing political problem still going on every game. Papa John's CEO said publicly what all the other sponsors must be saying privately because they entered into a costly marketing agreement and are not getting the returns they expected. Next year the NFL won't be able to get the same deals because businesses don't want anything to do with volatile politics, and the ad rates are set by viewership.

  • WorkingClass

    Anyone else notice that John Schnatter himself did not issue any kind of apology? The article states that Papa John's -- the corporation -- issued a statement, not Mr. Schnatter.

  • Tom

    Too late. People want delicious pizza not a slab of political pizza.

  • Truth-B-Me

    Ok let's just get one thing straight right now! The CEO of Papa Johns states that they are the official pizza of the White House, they support the fake president and YES, just like the fake president you ARE divisive so quit trying to cover it up!

  • John B Smythe

    There are some frozen pizzas that are wayyyyy better. Fresh out of your oven for about $6. Papa Johns is gross, especially if delivered, getting soggy in cardboard box.

  • THEFred

    1) World's worst customer service. 2) Lousy product. 3) Obnoxious a****** CEO.

    3 strikes, you're out!

  • Dan

    Their "sluggish pizza sales" was the result of people not wanting to buy their pizza! It had nothing to do with NFL football players kneeling during the national anthem.

  • Keisha

    Make better pizza then maybe your sales won't drop..............PERIOD

  • Rubber Banned

    Why should they apologize? The players are exercising their right to speak and so is he. Or is only approved speech free?

  • GP

    Always follow the money folks! The NFL, advertisers, players, owners, etc. are all working overtime to ensure that Joe 6-packs keeps the NFL relevant with their wallet. If starting this week 50% of the fans decided not to tune in to football for the rest of the season, not attend any games, or buy any merchandise that would be bigger than any social media tweet.

    Of course that will never happen, because like fixing global warning, the thinking is I will let the other person protest, change, or not show up, to prove the point

  • Dicazi

    How about they look at other pizza companies sales before they jump to any conclusions?
    Their sales are not down.
    And watching a football game
    is hardly the only time people order pizza.

  • MarkM

    "We also believe, as Americans, we should honor our anthem," he said. How about we honor our US Constitution instead, which allows these protests, not a song or a piece of cloth?

  • Billy Bob Smith

    Haven't had Papa John's pizza since his last go-around with stupidity over the ACA. He threatened to cut all his employees hours to less than 30 per week to avoid the mandatory employer insurance coverage. He then said the ACA would force him to raise pizza prices by 11 cents. What a maroon.

  • KB Peters

    What an idiot.

    He thought he declining sales were the fault of the NFL so he blames the protests. Once he realized that actually his stupid ill thought out tantrum costed him even more profit loss, he backtracks.

  • Jalek

    The NFL's in its twilight years anyway, they can't stop the life-changing injuries and the studies now are returning honest results.
    The liability insurance for a flag football game will be out of reach for anyone once the lawsuits settle.

  • HarleyFXrider

    Way to knuckle under so fast to these poor discriminated against millionaires. If you always supported the NFL and now your business is suffering now could it be because of these crybabies taking a knee. Stand up for the National Anthem, Veterans and our Flag or live on your knees.

  • tet1953

    No one ever mentions how the NFL disrespects the flag every time they march out a stadium-sized flag horizontally, flat to the ground. The flag is not to be displayed in such a manner. According to the American Legion rules for display of the flag, Section 8 paragraph c: "The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free."