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Papa John’s Surrenders to NFL National Anthem Kneelers

Papa John’s Surrenders to NFL National Anthem Kneelers

“We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward.”

Papa John’s, the pizza restaurant chain headquartered in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, has been on a mostly bad publicity roller coaster for several weeks. The company’s founder and CEO John Schnatter spoke out against the national anthem protests at NFL games, claiming they were hurting the company’s bottom line.

On November 2nd, Dan Gainor of FOX News reported:

Papa John’s blames NFL anthem protests for taking a multimillion-dollar slice out of its pizza earnings

If you just found out there’s an Official Pizza of the NFL, then you’re too late. Papa John’s, which held that unique title, lost too much money as a result of player protests during the national anthem.

As a result, founder and big cheese John Schnatter sacked the NFL’s “poor leadership” and said “the NFL has hurt us.’” He took his popular pizzas and his saucy attitude and went home, pulling his ads associated with the NFL for now.

Schnatter lost $70 million, which Forbes described as “Papa John Loses Dough,” after his company’s stock took a dive over bad sales numbers this week. The CEO refused to take a knee (take a knead?) and instead blamed the NFL anthem protests. Schnatter blasted NFL leadership for letting the protests continue and for “not resolving the current debacle.”

That move led to headlines like the one below from Newsweek:

Why Neo-Nazis Love Papa John’s Pizza – And Other ‘Official’ Alt-Right Companies

Why do Neo-Nazis and white supremacists keep laying claim to some of America’s most popular brands?

Most recently, the far-right website the Daily Stormer decided to name Papa John’s the “official pizza” of the alt-right. The endorsement was soon disavowed by the company, which claimed it doesn’t want neo-Nazis eating its pizza. But by endorsing brands the neo-Nazis succeed in giving the impression that they have mainstream allies who share their vision of an all-white world, experts say.

Yesterday, the official Twitter account for the company released this statement:

What has just played out is already sadly familiar. Objecting to the left can earn you an embrace by the alt-right. The left then feels justified labeling you a white supremacist which plays right into their political narrative.

Featured image via YouTube.


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Okay, but does anyone actually believe that the reason Papa Johns has lost a quarter of its market capitalization since the start of January was customers’ and investors’ ire at the NFL?

Investors don’t generally dump well-performing shares in solid growth companies over something like “Papa Johns advertises during NFL games; I disagree with the ‘take a knee’ kerfuffle, so imma dump my shares in this otherwise solid and well-performing company.”

I don’t follow football and I’ve never had Papa Johns pizza, but I do manage my own share portfolio and that’s not I do it.

    MattMusson in reply to Amy in FL. | November 15, 2017 at 7:49 am

    I can certainly believe that PJ’s drop in sales is directly connected to the NFL boycott. The way to confirm this is to see if sales has dropped more in the heartland where the boycott is more significant, while coastal sales are better.

      The 25% drop in market capitalization is from investors dumping shares, not just from Joe Blow in Winnetka deciding to order Dominoes rather than Papa Johns because he’s mad at Papa Johns for advertising during NFL games. I just have a gut feeling that there was some other deeper reason investors decided to sell, and that the CEO thought it would be a good look to blame it on the NFL. Then try to ride the populist wave of (genuine) antipathy towards the NFL by taking a political stand. Aaaaaand… it backfired on him.

      Just my feelings on it – YMMV.

I haven’t read NewsWeek since they put Obama with a rainbow halo around his head on the cover. I honestly thought, reading that excerpt, it was from The Onion. What drivel, what claptrap. I find it astounding that it passed for serious journalism.

Umm, yeah, the left will call us ‘Neo-nazis’ and ‘racists’ and ‘bigots’ and ‘Islamophobic’ and all sorts of terrible stuff regardless of what we do. The last thing we want to do is modify our behavior because of what we think these lunatics might say about us, because you know they’ll say it anyway, regardless of what what do.

Also, you could take all the ‘white nationalists’ in our country and stuff them into a phone booth and still have room left over. They’re virtually non-existent.

In the end, always do the right thing, because nobody reads Newsweek, and because the only people being divisive were the NFL players, protesting our national anthem.

    rdmdawg in reply to rdmdawg. | November 15, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Also, I’m not understanding your take on this, but figuratively standing up against the NFL player antics and for our national anthem can never be considered ‘Bad PR’.

guess I won’t be buying Papa Johns pizza in the future

casualobserver | November 15, 2017 at 9:44 am

The leftists mobs are so, so much more organized and unified. It only takes a quick email campaign from the MMfA hit squad and people act in unison. No wonder they are effective at intimidating companies that sell to the public.

I have my doubts that the right will ever me that zombie-like and organized. Sure, people will boycott. But the mob behavior of the left is unmatched.

Robot messages made to look like people for the most part.

Bucky Barkingham | November 15, 2017 at 11:13 am

Papa Johns can show solidarity with the NFL BLM SJW’s by having their delivery drivers kneel at your door while delivering your pizza order.

Cling to the NFL PJ- watch middle America and us normals reject you in droves. You’ll soon be what you once were, a regional pizza chain that struggles for market share.

This is just another example of a business which relies more on advertising than on producing a quality product at reasonable prices.

The quality of a Papa John’s pizza is not significantly better than that of most other national pizza chains and especially the quality of their nearest competitor, Pizza Hut. Add to that the fact that their product is noticeably higher than their competitors, as well as being a smaller pie, and they have an uphill battle on their hands. Then you have the fact that Pizza Hut, another high quality national chain, has been running internet specials which price their products in line with those of Little Caeser’s and Dominoes and PJs is taking a big hit. Their advertising alliance with the NFL offset that to some degree. When the NFL fans, also a big part of PJs customer base backed away from the NFL, this undoubtedly hurt PJs profit margin. Now, they are attempting to make that up by appealing to the SJW supporters.

Advertising can be a double edged sword. Concentrating on producing a quality product usually ensures better long term business results.

He should have just withdrew his sponsorship without comment and said it was a business decision if asked.

    Why anyone is an Official Sponsor is beyond me. It costs millions and what do you get for it? GM was the Official Automotive Sponsor until a few years ago? Who knew? Either Kia or Hyundai took over.

    The dumbest sponsorship of all is the USAA Official Military Appreciation Sponsor.

    The money Papa John’s spent on the sponsorship and NFL advertising has to be recuperated somewhere.

    My guess is most companies are Official NFL sponsors because of perks for key executives – season tickets and Super Bowl tickets.

Seems like a case of simple bad management. NFL advertising likely has been very expensive and the ad contracts that Papa John’s signed probably have expensive cancellation clauses. So Mr PJ was caught between paying a lot to get out of NFL ads and keeping them on with a declining viewership. As was mentioned earlier, the product quality does not seem to be a positive differentiator. My experience in my last two orders from PJ’s (two different outlets) was negative, so quite possible the combo of high ad costs and blah product quality have been an ongoing reason for declining profitability. Mr PJ would have been been better served to not complain about the NFL viewership and keep his ads going maybe with less of those NFL star promos in the ads.

DeplorableLanie | November 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm

I think Papa John’s may be sorry that they chose to stand (or should I say kneel) with the league instead of with Patriotic Americans. Because we honor the flag and the anthem does not make us neo-nazis! And frankly I am offended by his remarks (we can be offended too). I think he may find that his sales may take an even bigger hit. I hope he wasn’t planning on delivery to any Military bases. I agree with a previous post. He should have withdrawn his advertising without comment.

Probably the worst thing a CEO can do is to stake out a political position publicly and then when his pocketbook is pinched, reverse his stand. PJ’s has done it, Target has and so has Krueig. All made asses of themselves and then had to backtrack. What a show of bravery!

Papa John’s is not bad pizza, too bad they blacklisted themselves. Marco’s pizza is good also, and has moved to the front of my line.

I really don’t understand how business are so dumb.

Almost every business that has tried to virtue signal and cater to SJWs has either lost significant market share, or was already at the bottom and failed to show any positive upswing.

The few business that have publicly stood by their principles and rebuked the SJWs like Chick-Fil-A have seen a large boost in sales.

If Papa Johns had just kept their mouth shut it would have been fine. Instead they sort of tried to pretend like they were maybe thinking of dropping the NFL and now have publicly doubled down on it.


Papa John’s could have excoriated the NFL giving them a reason to pull their ads and I am guessing not paid penalty without picking sides. All they needed to say was that the NFL is managed by idiots that have driven away a significant portion of their viewers and that has lead to a devaluation of the advertising they had purchased. Therefore they are cancelling their relationship with the NFL until further notice. No side picked and they can tell any side that tries to use them to take a hike.

Ha ha. Their pizzas are perfect circles with perfectly formed crusts. They’re robot pizzas.

That means the ingredients are all slathered on perfectly uniformly too. That means the entire thing is mechanical, the supply chain for ingredients, all mechanical. Every element industrialized to maximum mathematic efficiency. The economist’s pizza. So devoid of artisan element that any High School dropout can perform well in their evaluated work efficiency models.

Ugh. I feel sad just looking at pictures of them. They’re pizzas for citizens of Robotlandia.

Compare with pizza made to order individually by human hands. Denver Pizza Company is right down the block, and I must say their pizzas are awesome, so far as pizzas can go. I copied their style and techniques. There’s something to be said for these visionary millennial types so very eager to prove themselves. Their energy is amazing. They impress the heck out of me. I’ve had their pizzas delivered to local business as I show up to tip the delivery guy and do my business and without fail the recipients freak the f out. I’ve got more mileage out of that than anything I ever expected, in terms of goodwill and comps, relationship building, sticking out from the crowd, street recognition, and so on. Denver Pizza Co., and the responses to receiving them out of the blue, have completely exceeded my expectation. They always say, “Be there in half an hour,” then show up in ten minutes.

But that’s not always true with local businesses. A previous pizza restaurant was the worst. Owned by an old guy who lacked enthusiasm for his product and for running his business. His employees were slouches. That place is now family owned Mexican restaurant, Don Quixote, and their energy is a beautiful thing to behold while the grace they extend is touching and personal.

As long as players disrespect the flag If a product is linked to the NFL I won’t buy it and I will call out anyone who does.