Papa John’s Founder Forced To RESIGN After Slamming NFL Anthem Protests

by Terresa Monroe-Hamilton | December 23, 2017 11:38 am

John Schnatter, 56, was forced to resign from his job as CEO of Papa John’s, a famous pizza company, over some comments he made regarding the National Football League protests. Keep in mind that he has previously supported Trump by sending an estimated $1,000 to his campaign and has spoken out against Obamacare.

He slammed the way that the NFL has handled the anthem protests, saying that there is a blatant lack of leadership at the National Football League and it was showing. He then reversed himself and apologized for speaking the truth. That was a mistake and he wound up ticking off both sides of the argument. He made his critical comments concerning the NFL and the National Anthem protests in November. It caused quite a media stir. Nazi websites labeling the company as the “official Pizza of the Alt-Right” caused Papa John’s to backtrack.

Apparently people thought that this was a bridge too far for the pizza peddler and decided that they couldn’t support him after he made his opinion on the matter clear. Now, he’s stepping away from Papa John’s as CEO, but will stay on as a chairman as he owns 25% of the company.


In November, 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.”

This is not the first time that Schnatter has stepped down as CEO, however, so those taking it as a victory should be warned. In 2005, after a period of steadily declining sales, he decided to pull this move as well. He came back three years later when the company took a turn for the better.

I expect that he is going to do the same thing here, though a statement from the company states that Schnatter will use this time to “pursue his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development, and education.” Schnatter said in a company conference call, “The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.” He’s certainly right about that.

In the meantime, the President of the company, Steve Ritchie, will take his place. 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.” It’s telling that Ritchie would not say if Schnatter’s NFL comments played a role in the job change. “I am humbled to take on this role,” said Ritchie. “By focusing on our team members, we will deliver the world class experiences our customers deserve.” Ritchie said that public relations controversies involving the company “have been quite a distraction.” “I want to put the focus back on our people and pizza,” he said.

This isn’t the first time people have threatened to boycott the company, however. In 2012 he slammed the Affordable Care Act, claiming that it would be a “lose-lose” situation for both the company and the employees, because it would drive up the price of his pizzas as a way to pay for the mandatory insurance.

He has maintained a great many conservative positions, writing in his book about what happens when you have too many regulations on business and the overall effect on the economy.

Papa John’s shares dropped considerably after Schnatter criticized the NFL. The company lowered its full-year sales guidance after reporting worse-than-expected comp sales in 3Q. Ritchie told FOX Business last month that Schnatter’s comments were “mischaracterized and misconstrued,” adding that Papa John’s had not intended to take a side in the debate over NFL protests. Company executives say they had clear data that proved Papa John’s NFL sponsorship was having a negative impact on its interactions with consumers.

The Tribune explains, “Shares of Papa John’s are down about 13 percent since the day before the NFL comments were made, reducing the value of Schnatter’s stake in the company by nearly $84 million. Schnatter owns nearly 9.5 million shares of Papa John’s International Inc. and his total stake was valued at more than $560 million on Thursday, according to FactSet. The company’s stock is down 30 percent since the beginning of the year.” Schnatter founded Papa John’s in 1984 and has a personal net worth estimated at $800 million, according to Forbes. Papa John’s has more than 3,000 store locations in the U.S.

As I mentioned before, I suspect that Schnatter won’t stay “retired” for very long and will retain complete control of the company. The fact that he was driven out after saying that he believes the anthem protests indicate a lack of leadership at the NFL, says a lot about the current state of the country. The truth is so offensive to some that they need to take drastic actions to silence it.

Oh well, that just leaves more pizza for the rest of us.

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. That definitely was not our intention. (1/3)

— Papa John's Pizza (@PapaJohns) November 15, 2017[2]

We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players’ movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both. (2/3)

— Papa John's Pizza (@PapaJohns) November 15, 2017[3]

We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward. Open to ideas from all. Except neo-nazis — ????those guys. (3/3)

— Papa John's Pizza (@PapaJohns) November 15, 2017[4]

  1. [Image]:
  2. November 15, 2017:
  3. November 15, 2017:
  4. November 15, 2017:

Source URL: