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Papa John's says anthem protests are hurting deal with NFL

02 November 2017

"This should've been nipped in the bud a year and half ago".

The popularity of the NFL helped fuel Papa John's growth in the 2010s, when the company began heavily investing ad dollars into national broadcasts. "Last year, the company signed a multi-year partnership with the National Football League and the Super Bowl".

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Papa John's International Inc. founder John Schnatter is going after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying weak handling of the league's national-anthem controversy has hammered sales of his pizza.

NFL owners and executives have been scrambling to determine the best response to players kneeling during the national anthem this season, a movement started previous year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to denounce police brutality against African-Americans, social injustice and racial inequality.

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Schnatter's criticism stems from the NFL's decision to allow players to protest on the field during the playing of the national anthem before games.

The NFL came up 44 times during the conference call. Papa John's COO Steve Ritchie told reporters that the company is revising sale projections for next quarter downward, largely due to the NFL. The stock is down 24% this year, while competitors including Domino's have performed well (Domino's stock is up 12% this year). Fans have reacted overwhelmingly negatively to the protests, citing them as the primary factor why they stopped watching the games. "Once the issue is resolved, we're optimistic the NFL's best years are ahead", Schnatter said. ESPN also reports that the company has pulled much of its NFL TV advertisements, and that the NFL has responded by offering additional future spots. "Like many sponsors, we're in touch with the NFL".

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According to Bloomberg, the dropoff was the biggest fall in eight months for Papa John's coming on the heels of the company's profits falling short of third-quarter estimates.

Papa John's says anthem protests are hurting deal with NFL