It Begins: Papa Johns Complains to NFL About Anthem Protests As Sales Fall

AP Mark Lennihan
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

No other brand name has been more synonymous with the NFL over the years, than Papa John’s. However, that bond might soon break, as the pizza giant let the NFL know that the league’s anthem protests are killing their business.

According to a report in the Sports Business Journal, in-game pizza sales have fallen off dramatically since President Trump blasted NFL protesters in September.

According to SBJ, “NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart confirmed to Sports Business Journal that Papa John’s had expressed concerns with the league. Further, Lockhart said that other top sponsors have expressed similar concerns as the NFL’s TV ratings slump and political battles play out in the league.”

NFL players have been kneeling in protest of the national anthem, ever since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing so in the preseason of 2016. Fans have reacted overwhelmingly negatively to the protests, citing them as the primary factor why they stopped watching the games.

President Trump targeted the NFL in particular in late September at a political rally in Alabama, where he called protesting players “SOB’s,” and said he wished their team owners would fire them.

The sources reporting Papa John’s concerns to the NFL, specifically cited Trump’s targeting of the NFL as a factor in the pizza company’s declining sales.

According to the Sports Business Journal, “The NFL is crucial to Papa John’s business. The company began its partnership with the NFL in 2010 and has “Preferred Pizza” partnerships with 23 NFL teams. Last year, the company signed a multi-year partnership with the NFL and the Super Bowl.”

“Our partnership with the NFL, in particular, has been exceptional,” Robert Thompson, senior vice president of marketing at Papa John’s, told Business Insider in 2016. “One of the reasons the NFL is such a strong marketing opportunity is because of the number of people that watch the games live whether it be at home or in the stadium.”


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