Papa John's CEO Blames Poor Pizza Sales on the NFL Protests

A Taco Bell restaurant in Laguna Beach California

Scott Mlyn | CNBC A Taco Bell restaurant in Laguna Beach California

"NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders", said the chain's CEO, John Schnatter, in a call with analysts Wednesday.

While Papa John's says sales have been hit hard by controversy over NFL players' national anthem protests, Pizza Hut executives say its sales haven't been affected at all.

In case you're a pizza restaurateur who has been hiding under a rock since Halloween, you should know that Papa John's CEO John Schnatter has stirred up a whole mess of trouble for his Louisville-based pizza empire this week after the brands Q3 domestic sales ended up being relatively weak.

Colin Kaepernick started the protest, against the treatment of black people in the United States, 15 months ago by kneeling during the U.S. anthem while playing for San Francisco 49ers - a stance since adopted by many other players.

On Univision sports site Deadspin, the clearly subjective is headlined, "Did Crybaby Loser Papa John Also Lose Our Chain Pizza Rankings?".

As many crappy commercials featuring Peyton Manning as they release, Papa Johns is and will always be a bad pizza franchise.

National Football League spokesman Joe Lockhart declined to comment on Schnatter's comments.

Goodell and the team owners decided last month not to force players to stand during the anthem. "The NFL has been a long and valued partner over the years".

"This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago", Schnatter said on the call. "The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country". With fewer Americans watching games, fewer people are presumably ordering pizza - and seeing Papa John's ads. "Once the issue is resolved, we're optimistic the NFL's best years are ahead".

"What we see is a lot of our shoppers and prospective shoppers are watching National Football League so that is what is behind the decision", said Greg Revelle, the chief marketing officer at Kohl's.

Many on the right rallied around Papa John's and Schnatter following his comments.

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