Papa John's Founder John Schnatter Steps Down as CEO

Papa John's will no longer have Papa John as CEO.

John Schnatter is stepping down as CEO, almost two months after he suggested NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem was to blame for slow sales.

Papa John's said Schnatter will still be chairman, but Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie is taking over as CEO on Jan. 1.

In its statement, Papa John's didn't give a specific reason for Schnatter's departure.

"I am so proud of Steve — he has excelled at every job he's ever held at Papa John's — from being an hourly customer service rep, to a delivery driver, store general manager, director of operations, franchisee and most recently President," Schnatter said in the statement. "With 120,000 Papa John's corporate and franchise employees, Steve will put the spotlight on our pizza and the most important ingredient - our team members. We couldn't have a more proven leader to guide Papa John's through its next stage of growth."

Schnatter is leaving the company he founded in 1984, two months after he blamed the NFL for his company's decreasing sales. The NFL became a political hot topic, after President Donald Trump called on the league to do something about players protesting during the National Anthem.

"The NFL has hurt us," Schnatter said on Nov. 1. "We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this."

As a result, the company decided to pull the NFL shield and the "official sponsor" text from its television advertising.

"Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership," Schnatter said. He thought the league should have "nipped" the issue last year, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Richie also said during the call with investors that the NFL sponsorship deal was a primary reason fro the decline. "We expect it to persist unless a solution is put in place," he said in November.

Photo credit: Facebook/ Papa John's