NFL, Papa John’s Mutually Agree To End Sponsorship, NFL Finds New Partner

REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Mike Brest Reporter
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In an unsurprising move Tuesday, the NFL and Papa John’s have agreed to terminate their sponsorship contract, according to ESPN.

Papa John’s had been the official pizza of the NFL since 2010, and the contract was not due to expire until 2020.

The pizza chain will still maintain its sponsorship with individual teams but will lose the ability to have a presence at big league events like the NFL Draft and the Super Bowl.

The rift between these two companies began with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in the beginning of this season.

John Schnatter, the founder and former CEO, blamed the protests for a decline in sales this fall. He later decided to step down as CEO but it remains unclear if the two events were related.

“We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this,” Schnatter said at the time to ESPN.

At the time, Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, who also was outspoken about the protests, came out and defended Schnatter. It later came out that Jones is a partial owner of 120 Papa John’s stores throughout the country.

In less than 24 hours, the NFL already found its new official pizza — Pizza Hut. The new agreement is supposedly for more money and extends a year longer than the NFL’s original contract with Papa John’s. Pizza Hut previously did not have any sponsorships with any teams or players but previously had deals with Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens years ago.

Pizza Hut is the largest chain of its kind in the United States. Its 7,500 stores nationwide are more than double the number of Papa John’s.

It’s unclear if any of the NFL’s other sponsors will look to terminate deals with the decline in ratings and the protests.