Papa John's pizza has been the US NFL's official pizza sponsor since 2010. It's not hard to imagine the benefits - as people gather to watch a game, they order a pizza or two to to with it, and in the past Papa John's have credited the sponsorship with driving their sales growth in the US - particularly as one of their franchisees in Colorado is star quarterback Peyton Manning, who regularly appears in their adverts. However now, the relationship may be going wrong as Papa John's have posted disappointing sales for the last quarter, resulting in a 13% fall in their share price.
John Schnatter, who is the chain's founder, chairman and chief executive officer, is blaming the protest against against racial inequality and police brutality which was started over a year ago by Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Protesting players kneel, rather than stand, during the national anthem at the start of each game, sparking anger and criticism amongst supporters, some of whom are now boycotting games - and presumably eating less pizza as a result.
There has been criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for not resolving the controversery, and several sponsors have been concerned about the impact on their support - but Schnatter is the most direct of the critics so far, saying that “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.” After President Trump took to Twitter to criticise the players, and the team owners for not firing the players, the scale of the protest has grown - as have the calls for Goodell to bring about a solution. Schnatter says that the players should be 'forced' to stand for the national anthem: “Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” he said.
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