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Papa John's apologizes for criticizing NFL anthem protests

| Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, 7:27 a.m.
Papa John's CEO John Schnatter
Papa John's CEO John Schnatter
Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, left, and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem in October 2016 before a game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. AP Photo | Marcio Jose Sanchez, File
Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, left, and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem in October 2016 before a game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. AP Photo | Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

Apparently Papa John's doesn't believe two weeks is too late to say sorry.

The popular pizza chain apologized in a string of tweets Tuesday night for comments made on a Nov. 1 conference call with shareholders where CEO and TV pitchman John Schnatter insinuated the ongoing anthem protests have hurt his business.

“The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention,” Papa John's wrote.

“We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players' movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both.”

Schnatter previously blamed commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing the anthem protests to continue rather than take a harsher stance against the demonstrations. Schnatter believes the anthem protests turned fans away from the game and, as a result, caused a decline in pizza sales.

“The NFL has hurt us,” Schnatter said. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”

Papa John's also told its shareholders the company had decided to pull much of its NFL advertising and the NFL gave the pizza maker credits for future ad spots.

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said.

The pizza chain's stock has fallen by 12.8 percent since Schnatter's comments on Nov. 1.

Declining viewership and loss of advertising revenue were previously raised as major concerns by Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder and other NFL owners regarding potential negative consequences of the ongoing anthem protests.

Many fans on both sides of the protest debate have taken to boycotting the NFL — some say they refuse to watch another game until Colin Kaepernick is signed, while others say they'll continue to boycott the NFL until the anthem protests end.

Although the controversy surrounding the anthem protests is quickly singled out as a major reason behind the NFL's declining viewership — ratings were down 5 percent overall through Week 7 compared with the same point last year — network TV viewership is down overall. The four major networks (NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox) are all suffering declining viewership, according to CNN.

While Papa John's previously blamed the anthem protests for its declining pizza sales, it now says it will work with the NFL and players in order to move forward in a “positive” manner.

Several prominent figures criticized Schnatter for his initial comments, insinuating that pizza sales are more important than taking a stand against racism and police brutality — the reasons behind the majority of players protesting during the anthem.

“Sorry racial injustice couldn't be ended as easily as adding an extra topping and a side of ranch,” ESPN reporter Jemele Hill wrote on Twitter on Nov. 1.

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