Following recent comments in which he blamed NFL leadership and the ongoing player protests during the national anthem for his company's disappointing sales and stock-market losses this year, Papa John’s CEO, John Schnatter, has been taking heat.
"The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction," Schnatter said on a conference call, according to Bloomberg News. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders."
"This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago," Schnatter said of the continued protests. "Like many sponsors, we’re in touch with the NFL. Once the issue is resolved, we’re optimistic the NFL’s best years are ahead.”
The protests that should have been “nipped in the bud,” began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick began sitting, and eventually kneeling, during pre-game singings of the national anthem as demonstrations against police brutality toward African-Americans. The movement gained momentum, developing into a national controversy partially fueled by President Donald Trump's incendiary comments.
After his recent statements and his decision to pull his company's advertising from NFL broadcasts (Papa John’s was an official league sponsor), some have accused Schnatter, a noted conservative, of putting his bottom line over the concerns of African-Americans.
Writer, activist and comedian Nick Pappas posted perhaps the most cutthroat and creative criticism of Schnatter via his Twitter account, using a doctored pizza box to get his point across.
This is a bold new marketing campaign by Papa Johns pizza: pic.twitter.com/vOXDchwoYH
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) November 1, 2017
Here, the chain’s longtime slogan, “Better ingredients. Better pizza,” becomes “Better ingredients. More racism.” The image also took aim at Schnatter’s reportedly questionable business ethics as well, citing low wages and lack of health care.
“I just lost $70 million,” the altered pizza box reads. “How did I get here? It might have been getting sued by my drivers over wages, being unwilling to offer my employees healthcare, or my overall terrible pizza, but I’ll blame players kneeling because I’m a racist.”
Schnatter, who reportedly donated $1,000 to the Trump presidential campaign, has long bristled against government regulations and once claimed Obamacare would force him to the raise the price of his pizza.
On Tuesday, Papa John's competitor, Pizza Hut, chimed in, contradicting Schnatter’s claims by noting its own improvement in sales over the same period. “We’re not seeing impact on any of that on our business,” Greg Creed, CEO of Pizza Hut's parent company Yum Brands told investors.