Papa John’s criticized for blaming poor pizza sales on NFL protests

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Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter, otherwise known as Papa John, is taking heat this week for blaming the company’s faltering sales on the NFL anthem protests.

The company, which is a sponsor and advertiser of the NFL, said customers have a negative view of the chain’s association with the NFL. The company also cut its earnings growth expectations for the year and Papa John’s stock fell about 10 percent Wednesday.

“NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders,” said the chain’s CEO, John Schnatter, in a call with analysts Wednesday. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

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

Many companies have seen their business cycles affected by the protests to some extent, with a portion of the population boycotting the NFL for disrespecting the military. But by coming out and shedding light on poor pizza sales, Schnatter opened himself up to speculation as to other reasons why sales could be down, namely, the quality of the pizza.

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