Papa John’s Apologizes for Blaming Declining Sales on NFL Protests

The official pizza of the NFL is saying sorry for CEO John Schnatter’s ‘divisive’ statements

Papa John’s has issued an apology for blaming poor sales on pro athletes’ “Take a Knee” protests. On a conference call announcing third-quarter earnings, CEO John Schnatter said, “The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction. NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.” But multiple other pizza companies disclosed that the demonstrations haven’t hurt their sales at all.

“The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention,” the chain wrote on its national Twitter page.

The thread continues: “We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players’ movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both. We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward.”

Papa John’s says it’s open to ideas from all “except neo-Nazis — (middle finger emoji) those guys.” The chain has been trying to distance itself from xenophobes after website The Daily Stormer labeled it as the “official pizza of the alt-right.”

So far, social media has welcomed the apology with open arms. Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, writes, “Interesting approach. The fact they even needed to say this about neo-Nazis is telling on where we are now. I wonder how many people were involved in the decision of the middle finger emoji.”

Ashley Feinberg, senior reporter at Huffington Post, says there is “truly nothing I love more than a brand being forced to clarify that it’s not a Nazi.”

Phil Barber, a sports columnist for The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California, poked fun at the current controversy surrounding Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Keurig coffee machines: “Uh-oh, get ready for the Keurigs flying through Papa John’s windows.”

And John Hendrickson, deputy editor at Esquire, remixed the pizzeria’s famous tagline: “Better ingredients, fewer Nazis. Papa John’s.”

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For more on the Kentucky-based chain, here are 9 things you didn’t know about Papa John’s.