DALLAS (105.3 The Fan/AP) – The NFL says it has come to an agreement with Papa John’s to end their partnership.
ESPN’s Dan Rovell was the first to report the news.
The two entities issued a joint statement Tuesday:
“The NFL and Papa John’s have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in sport.”
Rovell reports that Papa John’s will still be the official pizza of 22 NFL teams, however, they can’t use the NFL shield.
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter stepped down as CEO about two months after he publicly criticized the NFL leadership over national anthem protests by football players — comments for which the company later apologized.
Schnatter was replaced as chief executive by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on Jan. 1. 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.
Earlier in the season, Schnatter blamed slowing sales growth at Papa John’s on the outcry surrounding players kneeling during the national anthem. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had kneeled during the national anthem to protest what he said was police mistreatment of black men, and other players started kneeling as well.
“The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country,” Schnatter said during a conference call about the company’s earnings on Nov. 1.
Papa John’s apologized two weeks later, after white supremacists praised Schnatter’s comments. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company distanced itself from the group, saying that it did not want them to buy their pizza.
According to Rovell, Papa John’s sales were down 3.9% from October to December compared to the year before.
Back in November, during his weekly appearance with the G-BAG Nation on 105.3 The Fan, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones addressed Schnatter’s comments and confirmed that he is part owner of 120 Papa John’s stores in Texas.
“John Schnatter is one of the great Americans,” Jones said on the G-BAG Nation on 105.3 The Fan. “He’s the story of America. He started off in his dad’s bar just doing pizza with a little oven or microwave, and he’s built that thing into one of the great businesses.
“Papa John’s was named by all of the people that look at the NFL, Papa John’s was named as the product most associated with the NFL, and it was named that a year ago by a survey of our viewers. So he is quite an American story. He was not cavalier about showing he’s got data. … So when he speaks, I listen.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)