Papa John’s Called Out By Pizza Industry Over NFL Protest Comments

The CEO and founder of Papa John’s recently called out the ongoing NFL protest controversy as part of the reason for its lagging sales.

By Ryan Velez

The CEO and founder of Papa John’s recently called out the ongoing NFL protest controversy as part of the reason for its lagging sales. However, Business Insider reports that the rest of the pizza industry isn’t buying the excuse, and has come together with some call-outs of their own.

This all began with John Schnatter’s slam towards NFL leadership for not handling the issue properly, and saying that it was dragging down pizza sales of Papa John’s "Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership," Schnatter said. This earned the company and its founder some support from the right, but more criticism than anything else, including from other pizza companies, which were likely all too happy to leap on the dogpile of one of their competitors.

Pizza Hut was one of the first to get in on the action, with Greg Creed, the CEO of parent company Yum Brands, saying that the NFL protest had "no impact"on the chain's sales. This statement was in response to the question of an analyst, but many were happy to see what was a rebuke to Papa John’s. Other pizza brands took a more direct approach, like DiGiorno’s with a series of tweets. At one point, the official account replied to a tweet saying that Papa John’s pizza tasted like “dog s***” a seeming approval of the statement.

Even smaller companies are using the moment to try and get a little limelight. East Coast chain Ledo Pizza also tweeted some jabs against Papa John’s, along with liking tweets against them. Business Insider took the moment to reach out to other chains, including Domino’s, Little Caesar’s, and Blaze Pizza, but did not get any responses.

Whether or not it boils down to pizza quality or an actual social issue, the fact that Papa John’s would even say such a thing publicly speaks a lot about the NFL as a brand, and how what may have seemed like a zenith for a sponsor may no longer be so in the wake of the current political climate.

"If the viewership decline continues, we will need to shift into things that work more effectively for us," Papa John's President and COO Steve Ritchie told the Wall Street Journal. “We are anxiously awaiting a solution (to the anthem issue) to be created. That’s what will put the league in a positive place for the players, the fan base and the partners associated with them.” This is no doubt irritating to many, who note that the original intent of the protests, calling attention to police brutality and racism, is getting shoved further and further aside.

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