As stock in the alt-right’s favorite pizza continues falling, Papa John’s is losing its status as the pie of the National Football League.
The organizations said in a joint statement, “The NFL and Papa John’s 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.”
It is not clear which of the 32 NFL teams will still be working with Papa’s Johns, once declared the pizza of Nazis.
Papa John’s and the NFL teamed up in 2010 and enjoyed a positive public relationship. Star players appeared beside founder and former CEO of the pizza chain John Schnatter in commercials.
But Schnatter seemingly compromised the relationship when he blamed the NFL protests for a decline in sales for Papa John’s. He said late last year on a call with investors, “The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.”
“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” he added.
It turns out Papa John’s was the organization with a leadership problem, though. Schnatter, who founded Papa John’s, soon stepped down as CEO (he remains chairman of the board, however). Meanwhile, CFO Lance Tucker is also leaving the company, effective March 2. He will be filling the same role at Jack in the Box.
As of Wednesday, Papa John’s stock was down by 25 percent compared to one year ago. Domino’s Pizza, in contrast, up 18.56 percent compared to one year ago. Yum! Brands, parent company of Pizza Hut, was up 26.37 percent from one year ago. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up22.34 percent compared to one year ago.
Steve Ritchie, CEO of Papa John’s, reportedly said on an earnings call, “While the NFL remains an important channel for us, we have determined that there are better ways to reach and activate this audience.”
The company brought a new chief marketing officer, Brandon Rhoten, on board last year. According to Ad Age, Rhoten has enlisted a new ad agency, Laundry Service, as well as a new public relations company, Olson Engage.
Papa John’s public image took a significant hit when Nazi website the Daily Stormer declared the pizza as “Official pizza of the alt-right”
Schnatter’s connection with the NFL continues, though. Earlier this month former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s grievance against the NFL requested a new list of people to be deposed, including Schnatter as well as Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys. Kaepernick’s team has questions on whether Jones had a hand in comments Schnatter made about the NFL last year.
Notably, Schnatter donated money to President Donald Trump’s campaign.