Papa John's is no longer the official pizza of the National Football League. The company, which four months ago blamed NFL players who protested racial injustice during the national anthem for its falling sales, will be replaced by Pizza Hut.
"The NFL and Papa John's have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport," the league and the company said in a joint statement.
Papa John's has been the NFL's official pizza since 2010 and will continue its local market deals with 22 teams. But this means Pizza Hut will be featured at league-wide events like the draft and Super Bowl. Pizza Hut reportedly signed a four-year deal with the NFL, and, according to CNN, it's "worth more than the Papa John's deal."
"We are thrilled to have Pizza Hut, an industry leader and one of America's favorite brands, as an official league sponsor," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. The new sponsorship will coincide with the draft in April.
Last fall, Papa John's founder and former CEO John Schnatter said players who protest during the national anthem hurt the company's business and blamed the NFL's leadership for not quelling demonstrations. "Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership," Schnatter said. "The NFL has hurt Papa John's shareholders." Subsequently, the pizza company pulled its NFL associated advertising. "This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago," Schnatter added. "The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country."
"Twelve days later, after the company's stock had dropped 12 percent, Schnatter apologized for his comments," ESPN reported. And Schnatter was replaced as CEO at the top of this year.