Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Papa John's Revisits NFL Partnership After National-Anthem Flap

Updated on
  • Pizza chain’s CEO railed against the league earlier this week
  • NFL ratings have declined, which some blame on controversy

Papa John’s International Inc. is taking another look at its long-running sponsorship with the NFL as the league confronts lower ratings and a controversy over national-anthem protests.

The pizza chain is evaluating its partnership with the National Football League, spokesman Peter Collins said in an email. The step follows a quarter in which Papa John’s posted lower North American sales than Wall Street expected, a result the company blamed in part on a diminished NFL.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported on the move, quoting Chief Marketing Officer Brandon Rhoten as saying that the company was pondering its “reliance on partnerships that are TV-focused, like the NFL.” NFL football players began protesting last season during the national anthem -- demonstrations that sparked calls for a boycott and raised concerns among league sponsors.

The NFL says it’s communicating with partners to keep them up to date on its efforts. “We continue to be the top sports and entertainment property to be affiliated with and provide tremendous value,” the league said in a statement.

Papa John’s Chief Executive Officer John Schnatter railed against the NFL earlier this week, criticizing its leadership for mishandling the recent controversy.

“The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” Schnatter said on a conference call. “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.”

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