Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter blamed the NFL Tuesday after the company reduced its sales and profit forecasts saying the national anthem protests have hurt the company.
“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter told investors in a conference call, according to CNN. “The NFL has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.”
NFL ratings are in a slump. Through Week 7, NFL viewership is down 5 percent overall from the same point last year, according to CNN.
Schnatter put the NFL at fault. He cited the anthem protests as the root of the problem, CNN reported.
“The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country,” Schnatter said. “The NFL has hurt us. We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”
In response, Papa John’s pulled some of its commercials from NFL games this season. Schnatter said the NFL has promised to give the company future spots in return.
Papa Johns has had a sponsorship deal with the league since 2010. Schnatter has starred in commercials that focus on the NFL including spots he has done in the past with former Indianapolis Colt Peyton Manning.
The national anthem protests heated up when Houston Texans owner Bob McNair was quoted at an Oct. 17 owners meeting as saying, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
On Oct. 29 about 40 Houston Texans players knelt during the national anthem. Nine Texans stood. McNair later said he regretted making that comment.
“I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owners meeting last week,” he said, according to Reuters.
“I was referring to the relationship between the league office and team owners and how they have been making significant strategic decisions affecting our league without adequate input from ownership over the past few years.”