Papa John’s founder John Schnatter will step down as the company’s CEO next month—weeks after he made disparaging remarks about the NFL.
Schnatter criticized the NFL’s leadership over the U.S. national anthem protests.
Now, a spokesperson for Papa John’s confirmed to The Associated Press that he remains chairman, but he’ll be replaced as chief executive by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on Jan. 1.
“The NFL has hurt us,” Schnatter said back November. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”
“Leadership starts at the top and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter noted. “The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country,” Schnatter said, per CNN.
Papa John’s is the official pizza company of the NFL, and it often features former superstar quarterback Peyton Manning in its commercials.
According to Sports Illustrated, the firm’s stock has dropped 5 percent since the start of the NFL season.
“The NFL was eighth of the top 10 prime time shows. So it’s experiencing a significant decline, which is leading us to have to look at other investment to create that consumer preference of our brand,” Brandon Rhoten, who is the chief marketing officer with Papa John’s, said in an earnings call.
He also said that customers had a negative view of the chain’s association with the NFL.
Ritchie didn’t tell AP if his NFL comments played a role in the move.