Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has stepped down as CEO of the nationwide pizza chain just weeks after blaming the NFL for their slipping sales, but will remain chairman of the company.
The popular pizza chain has had strong ties with the NFL for years, but some recent comments by Schnatter is putting strain on the relationship. (RELATED: Papa John Has Some Strong Words For NFL Leadership)
Last month, Schnatter weighed in on the national anthem protests that are continuing to take place across the NFL, although in limited numbers. Schnatter blamed the decline in TV ratings and Papa John’s sales on the league’s ability to take control of the situation. The Louisville, Kentucky-based pizza company is also a big donor of the University of Louisville athletics department, which is currently involved in a scandal of its own. Each of those issues combined led to Schnatter’s stepping down, Papa John’s chief operating officer Steve Ritchie told the Wall Street Journal.
“Clearly all of the PR things have been quite a distraction,“ Ritchie said. “I want to put the focus back on our people and pizza.”
Ritchie, who has served as the chief operating officer at Papa John’s since 2014, will take over as CEO in January. The future CEO said that they are continuing to monitor their existing relationships, but didn’t have anything positive to say about the NFL either.
“The NFL has continued to experience declines in viewership,” Mr. Ritchie said. “We’re evaluating all partnerships on a day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month basis to make sure we’re getting the benefit.”