Papa John’s Says NFL Anthem Protests Are Hurting Sales

November 1, 2017 Updated: November 1, 2017    

One of the biggest NFL sponsors dropped a bombshell on anthem protests.

John Schnatter, the CEO of Papa John’s pizza, said that the protests during the national anthem are bad for business.

He said that amid ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest, it should have been “nipped in the bud” by the NFL more than a year ago, Sports Illustrated reported.

“The NFL has hurt us,” Schnatter said of the league’s response to the protests. “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, CBS reported.

In response, Papa John’s pulled a few of its ads from NFL games this season.

“It indeed appears that National Football League strife may be weighing on same-store sales to some degree, with Papa John’s as the NFL’s Official Pizza Sponsor bearing some brunt of this issue,” Instinet analysts said in a research note on Tuesday, CNN reported. “Sponsorship of NFL = No Free Lunch.”