Papa John’s Sorry-Not-Sorry NFL Anthem Apology Goes Over Heads of Jock Journalists

AP Jack Dempsey
AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

Papa John’s issued a non-apology apology to ideologues angered by the NFL sponsor’s acknowledgement that national anthem protests hurt the company’s bottom line.

The pizza delivery chain noted in a series of tweets that it merely described “factors” instrumental in the earnings dip, declaring that “we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive.”

Translation? Stop taking offense like Ron Burgundy and starting eating pizza like Joey Ramone.

The trio of tweets included a take-that, middle-finger emoji aimed at neo-Nazis but exuded a more subtle message for the company’s detractors:

On a recent earnings call, Papa John’s, one of the most familiar brands on Sunday afternoon television in the fall, pointed to the national anthem kneelers as bringing down NFL ratings, which, in turn, sacked pizza profits. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones cites the struggles of Papa John’s in making the case to other NFL owners to rethink a proposed, quite lucrative, contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell. The vocal criticism from a brand so closely tethered to the league amplified a story the NFL desperately seeks to mute.

“The NFL has hurt us,” the pizza powerhouse’s pitchman John Schnatter explained two weeks ago. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership didn’t resolve this.”

ESPN’s Darren Rovell notes a 12 percent drop in the company’s stock since the comments by its celebrity spokesman-CEO Schnatter. Since Colin Kaepernick first sat for “The Star Spangled Banner” during the 2016 preseason as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, the NFL’s ratings have declined by a similar percentage.

Despite the sorry-that-you’re-mad nature of the apology, many critics of the company’s candid stance on the NFL’s adverse impact on its earnings declared it a major victory. Headlines read: “Papa John’s apologizes for ‘divisive’ comments” (ESPN), “Papa John’s apologizes for blaming low earnings on NFL players’ protests” (Washington Post), and “Papa John’s apologizes for saying anthem protests hurt sales” (New York Daily News). CBSSports.com, nearly alone among major sports sites, deciphered the tweets as “certainly more of a ‘sorry you were offended’ apology than a ‘sorry, we screwed up’ apology.”

File under: sorry not sorry.

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