On Wednesday the owner and founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain and major NFL advertiser held a press conference where he excoriated the league saying that its national anthem protests had cost him $70 million in business. Now, several members of the sports media have theorized that the owner of the Dallas Cowboys was behind the pizza chain owner’s complaints.
In a company conference call on Wednesday, Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter slammed the NFL and its leadership saying the national anthem protests should have been “nipped in the bud” and shut down last year when former San Francisco 49ers second-string quarterback first began them.
“The NFL has hurt us,” Schnatter told his company. “We are disappointed the NFL, and its leadership did not resolve this.”
“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” he added.
This was no less than a direct shot at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It is remarkable as Schnatter is the first major NFL advertiser who has directly criticized the league for the protests.
But the liberal sports media sniffs another person behind the scenes pushing Schnatter to his criticism.
According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, the shadowy figure behind Schnatter’s attack on Roger Goodell is no less than Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones. Florio writes, “Jones has become a significant Papa John’s franchise owner, with the total number of stores owned by Jones in excess of 100 as of 2014.
“The relationship started in 2004, when Papa John’s became the official pizza of the Cowboys, and in turn Jones acquired 49-percent interest in 71 Papa John’s stores. Eight years later, Jones appeared in a Papa John’s commercial, where he rapped through the whole thing.”
So, what does Jones’ large holding in Papa John’s have to do with the company’s attack on Goodell? Well, Florio says that it is just another part of Jones’ war on Goodell:
More recently, Jones has been doing a different kind of rapping as he tries to derail the Commissioner’s contract extension, which the Compensation Committee already has been authorized, by a 32-0 vote back in May, to execute. The suspicion in some league circles is that Jones, who has reason to be even more upset with Commissioner Roger Goodell now that running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension is back on, instigated Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter to use Wednesday’s quarterly earnings conference call to dump on the NFL, and to call out NFL leadership for failing to solve the anthem issue before it became a full-blown problem.
This conspiracy theory is plausible, at least, seeing as how it was reported late last month that Jones organized a conference call with 17 other owners to talk down Goodell and to revisit his contract extension that had otherwise already been agreed upon.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.