In a Wednesday conference call, Papa John’s executives expressed concern over the NFL’s continued national anthem controversy. After the release of their disappointing third-quarter financial report, the pizza chain’s stock plummeted 8.5%, causing founder and CEO, John Schnatter, to lose $70 million in less than 24 hours.
“The NFL has hurt us,” John Schnatter said on the conference call. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”
Papa John’s is the NFL’s official sponsor. It was reported the company would pull many of their NFL TV ads, but a spokesman later clarified, only the NFL shield or the “official sponsor” label would be removed from those advertisements. With Papa John’s being the most visible NFL sponsor the last two years, the company sees a direct correlation between the league’s popularity and theirs.
Papa John’s president and chief operating officer Steve Ritchie agreed that their relationship with the NFL is a leading cause for their poor third-quarter numbers stating, “we expect it to persist unless a solution is put in place.”
With fans already threatening to boycott the NFL over the anthem controversy, this is the league’s first major sponsor to express public concern. When ESPN host Jemele Hill went after advertisers, the network felt pressured to take action. If Papa John’s inspires other sponsors to follow suit, the league’s responding move will be interesting.
“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” CEO John Schnatter said, after believing the issue was “nipped in the bud” a year and a half ago.