Poultry Producer Blames NFL Protests for Declining Sales

The drop in viewership of NFL games is not just impacting ratings on major networks, it is hitting the bottom line of the poultry business.

Sanderson Farms, one of the largest producers of chicken in the United States, said that its drop in sales were due — at least in some part — to demonstrations made by professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem.

The company said that prices have decreased in each of the last three months and were 14 percent lower than during the same period of time year over year.

Joe F. Sanderson, Jr., the CEO of Sanders Farms, said that his retail clients are ordering less of the product, and theorized that it is because fan demand has dropped.

“The only thing puzzling me right now is wings,” Sanderson told Bloomberg.

“We’ve been talking to our wing customers and they’re the ones that are telling us that they’re seeing less traffic in their stores. They attribute that to the NFL.”

The company has seen its stock shares drop 13 percent, down to $145.85 on Thursday — the lowest closing bell since 2004. Sanderson is not alone as both Pilgrim's Pride Corp as well as Tyson Foods have seen drops in stock prices.

Corporate reaction from Sanderson came just days before Papa John's announcement that John Schnatter was stepping down as CEO, almost two months after he suggested that NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem was to blame for slow sales.

Schnatter founded the company in 1984, but said two months ago that he blamed the NFL for his company's decreasing sales.

"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.

At the time he expressed that 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.

The kneeling movement grew as more players bought into the message, which allegedly has driven viewers from the NFL as it become a political pulpit instead of a release from the real world.

Demand for chicken wings tends to soar through the later parts of the year as people watch more football and peaks through the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Last year it was estimated that 1.33 billion wings were eaten during the championship game.

Sunday Night Football rankings were down 35 percent week over week.