"That was definitely not our intention", Papa John's tweeted. "He said protests should have been nipped in the bud a year ago".
Far-right groups took note of the sentiment and floated the idea that the pizza chain may have been the "official pizza of the alt right".
The pizza chain used its Twitter page Tuesday to apologize to anyone who thought talk stemming from the company's quarterly conference call almost two weeks ago was meant to be divisive. "Except neo-nazis", the company tweeted, offering a "middle finger" emoji to "those guys".
Papa John's statement on Twitter comes amid a sales slump for the pizza chain. When you acknowledge that the kneeling protests ONE thing only, specifically police brutality against minorities and that the protests do not disrespect either the military nor our flag, THEN I MIGHT consider eating your s***ty pizza again.
Schnatter previously blamed commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing the anthem protests to continue rather than take a harsher stance against the demonstrations. Business Insider retail reporter Kate Taylor noted last week that 18 other NFL sponsors refused to say whether they were reevaluating their NFL sponsorship deals or experiencing a negative sales impact as a result of the protests among NFL players. "Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership".
Steve Ritchie, Papa John's president and chief operating officer also laid blame on the company's deal with National Football League for the decline in sales, New York Daily News reported. "I don't see an apology for that". They want to protest.
Papa John's replied to some of the responses, acknowledging that it "should have acted sooner" following Schnatter's comments.