Papa John's founder steps down after blaming anthem protests for slumping sales

More brands could be on the fence over partnerships with NFL | Fanbuzz

And that brings us to Friday's announcement that Schnatter will step down as the CEO of Papa John's following his remarks about NFL players protesting during the national anthem, as reported by NPR. No immediate reason was given for his decision, which takes effect January 1.

As the founder, Schnatter has been one of the biggest names in fast food. He cast some blame on the N.F.L., which has a sponsorship deal with Papa John's, over the decision by some football players to draw attention to police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem.

John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John's, has stepped down as chief executive officer of the pizza restaurant chain, according to the company.

"I am so proud of Steve - he has excelled at every job he's ever held at Papa John's - from being an hourly customer service rep, to a delivery driver, store general manager, director of operations, franchisee and most recently President", Schnatter said in the statement. A press release from the company said he would "pursue his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development, and education".

"At the very least, it was distracting and I'm wondering whether this was board-driven or if it was John's choice", said restaurant consultant John Gordon of the Pacific Management Consulting Group. The movement began with then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.

"The NFL has hurt us", Schnatter said on November 1. "This should've been nipped in the bud a year-and-a-half ago". On Dec. 21 he told investors that he was stepping down as CEO from the company he founded in 1984. Whether Schnatter will continue as spokesman has not been decided, Ritchie said. Papa John's later apologized for the "divisive" comments.

Forbes' numbers don't account for Papa John's recent sales slump - nor for Schnatter's controversial comments response last November. The CEO announcement was made after the market has closed.

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