Papa John’s Pizza is no longer the official sponsor of the NFL. Officials at the chain said both parties agreed to prematurely end the eight-year relationship, which became strained last year after company founder John Schnatter blamed poor pizza sales on pregame “Take a Knee” demonstrations. The 56-year-old’s comments landed the chain in an uncomfortable position when one ultraconservative publication declared Papa John’s the “official pizza of the alt-right.”
Schnatter denied the claims and later apologized for his anti-protest remarks, but ultimately stepped down from his position as CEO and was replaced by brand president Steve Ritchie (even though the public truly wanted Lil Jon).
And the NFL isn’t dwelling on its breakup with the chain. It’s already moved into another contract with Pizza Hut. According to Sports Business Daily, the four-year agreement beginning April 1 will benefit the league more, as the Texas-based pizza maker will reportedly pay a larger sponsorship fee and create a “far bigger marketing footprint” with its 7,500 locations.
But Papa John’s won’t completely sever itself from the NFL. Instead, the delivery chain will “focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport,” according to a joint release.
For more on the new official sponsor of the NFL, here are 25 things you didn’t know about Pizza Hut.