Papa John’s has announced they will end their sponsorship of the National Football League in the wake of this season’s anthem protests, admitting that their association with the NFL drove customers away.
The pizza chain has been the official pizza of the NFL since 2010, but has seen a substantial drop in sales from last year, according to The Daily Wire.
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On an earnings conference call, CEO Steve Ritchie made the announcement, admitting that the NFL anthem protests hurt Papa John’s bottom line when American patriots began boycotting the pizza chain.
“While the NFL remains an important channel for us, we have determined that there are better ways to reach and activate this audience,” Ritchie said.
He added, “We have really got a lot of key learnings on how we can invest our dollars more appropriately. So we thank the NFL for all the efforts and the partnership that we’ve had over the last seven years.”
In November, former CEO John Schnatter blamed the controversy regarding football players who kneel during the national anthem for “polarizing the customer, polarizing the country” and slowing down sales at the pizza chain restaurant, which was a major sponsor and advertiser of the NFL.
“We are totally disappointed that the NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago,” he said in a conference call with investors. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” according to Business Insider.