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Papa John’s and the NFL Part Ways After Relationship Crumbled Due to Anthem Protests

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AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

Papa John’s Pizza, alongside Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, formed an alliance against the NFL anthem protest movement and against Commissioner Roger Goodell, in 2017.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a day after the NFL launched legal proceedings to recoup millions of dollars in legal fees from Jerry Jones, the NFL and Papa John’s mutually parted ways.

In a joint statement released by both parties on Tuesday, the two former business partners announced that Papa John’s will no longer be the official pizza of the NFL.

The statement read, “The NFL and Papa John’s have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport.”

The trail of events that led to the breakup are not hard to trace. The relationship began deteriorating after then-Papa John’s CEO and Founder John Schnatter, blamed NFL leadership for mishandling the player-led anthem protest movement. A movement which, Schnatter believed, directly impacted his business.

Schnatter voiced his displeasure with the NFL’s handling of the protests in a conference call in November of last year: “The NFL has hurt us. 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.”

Schnatter apologized for his remarks, before eventually resigning as CEO of the company he founded. Though, despite no longer serving as CEO, Schnatter still serves as a chairman.

According to the Daily News, ESPN’s Darren Rovell has reported that “Papa John’s saw a 3.9 percent decline in sales from October through December in 2017 compared to the year prior.”

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