Papa John's Ends Sponsorship Deal With NFL

It is being reported that popular pizza chain Papa John's has called it quits with its National Football League sponsorship deal.

According to ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, "Papa John's & the NFL have ended their sponsorship deal."

"Founder CEO John Schnatter left on Jan. 1 as CEO in part because of his comments that players not standing for Anthem hurt sales. Papa John's sales were down 3.9% in Oct. thru Dec. compared to year before," Rovell added.

The NFL and Papa John's also released an official statement, explaining that they "have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport."

Rovell explained that this means "Papa John's will still be the official pizza of 22 team NFL teams, just can't use NFL shield," and adds that "teams are allowed to do individual beer and telecommunications deals with companies that are not the official league sponsor."

Finally, Rovell also reports that Papa John's has hired Laundry Service and Olson Engage, who are considered to be two of the top ad and PR firms in the United States.

As Rovell acknowledged, the founder of Papa John's, "Papa" John Schnatter, stepped down as CEO of the company after he made statements suggesting that the NFL was to blame for Papa John's low sales because they allowed players to controversially take a knee during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality.

"The NFL has hurt us," Schnatter said in November. "We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this. Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership."

Afterwards, sales for the company dove even further, resulting in Schnatter exiting his leadership role in the company.

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While he remains chairman of Papa John's, Schnatter handed Chief Operating Officer duties to Steve Ritchie

"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 a 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."