Talking to investors Wednesday, CEO John Schnatter claimed that Papa John's falling sales were caused by the NFL protest where dozens of players kneel during the national anthem each weekend. Papa John's is a big NFL advertiser, and Schnatter reportedly said the NFL's ratings were going down this year due to the "polarizing" #TakeAKnee controversy, therefore meaning his business was going down, too.
According to Johnathan Maze, senior financial editor at Nations Restaurant News, Schnatter blamed the pizza company's poor sales on "negative consumer sentiment" due to Papa John's association with the NFL. Schnatter apparently went on to claim that the NFL's ratings declined last year because of the 2016 presidential election and then declined even more this year because of the #TakeAKnee protests, Maze said on Twitter.
The CEO also reportedly accused the NFL of having poor leadership, adding that "the issue between NFL and players 'should have been nipped in the bud'" when it first started a year and a half ago. “The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle,” Schnatter said.
While NFL ratings have been down, it's more likely due to a shift in the way people consume media rather than the #TakeAKnee protests, according to The Atlantic. Other sports, like Major League Baseball, have also seen a decline in ratings. And NFL ratings have actually been showing an uptick in the past few weeks, closing the gap on last season.
Considering these protests are meant to address police brutality in the United States, a lot of people thought it was beyond insensitive for Schnatter to dismiss them as a controversial "debacle" responsible for his company's poor sales. Here are some of the responses to Schnatter's claims.
Protests Are More Important Than Pizza
A lot of people are pointing out that the violence police officers use against unarmed black women and men in this country is a lot more important than Papa John's annual earnings.
Maybe It's The Pizza
Many consider it unfair for Schnatter to blame Papa John's poor sales on the protests, when it could come down to the pizza itself.
Definitely The Pizza
Tell Them How You Really Feel
These Players Are Sacrificing More
"The players have shown a willingness to sacrifice," Domonique Foxworth, a former NFL player, said in a video for The Undefeated. "They're aware that [the protest] impacts the sponsors and they're aware that it brings down the revenue coming to the game and potentially could impact their pockets. With all that being said, they still stand up for justice."
Papa John's Sales Were Already Down
ESPN staff writer Bill Barnwell pointed out that the pizza chain's earnings were on a steady decline well before the protest really took off in September 2017. He shared a chart of the company's declining stock prices, which supports his claims.
"Couldn't Possibly Be"
Schnatter Has Politicized Business Before
"Worth noting that Papa John's CEO has made politicized business claims in the past—was notoriously anti-Obamacare," ESPN The Magazine's senior writer, Mina Kimes, tweeted. "He said the ACA would compel Papa John's to raise prices, cut workers' pay...received backlash/critical fact checks."
Being Against Police Brutality Is Not Anti-American
Some people are applauding Papa John's decision to pull ads from the NFL because they feel the protests are "anti-American."
"Most Ridiculous Thing"
A Lot Of People Are Waiting For Trump's Comments
While President Donald Trump has yet to comment on Schnatter's claims, he has been very outspoken against the protests in the past. People are assuming he will praise Papa John's CEO.
Some Are Even Doubting If Papa John's Is Pizza
Some East Coasters questioned Papa John's in general.
And Some Are Boycotting
And for some, boycotting the pizza chain will be easy. Ever since Schnatter blamed bad sales on the take a knee protests, people seem more than happy to give it up.
Since black people are more likely than white people to be killed by police in the United States, many people believe that fact is a lot more important than Papa John's declining sales. For these Twitter users, Schnatter blaming the drop in revenue on an important protest, and dismiss it as a nuisance, shows where his priorities lie.