Papa John’s Just Took a Major Financial Hit and the NFL Anthem Protest Could be the Cause

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In less than 24 hours, John Schnatter, the founder and CEO of the Papa John’s pizza chain, saw his net worth plummet by $70 million based on the company’s third-quarter financial report that was released on Tuesday afternoon. While the business beat earnings and revenue estimates, it lowered guidance for the coming period for same-store sales.

As reported by Yahoo Finance, Schnatter owns approximately 25 percent of Papa John’s, so, when stock prices fell 11 percent, his net worth suffered.

Schnatter believes that controversy surrounding the national anthem protests in the National Football League are at least partially responsible. Papa John’s is “official pizza sponsor” of the NFL.

“The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle,” said Schnatter on Wednesday during a conference call.

The company believes that customers have a negative view of the pizza chain based on its association with the NFL.

“NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders,” said Schnatter. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

While the national anthem protests have impacted viewership, according to Fortune, ratings have been declining for some time. During the 2016 regular season, NFL ratings were down 9 percent. However, during that period, Papa John’s sales actually increased 3.5 percent system-wide.

The national anthem protests began last year when then-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled to draw attention to police mistreatment of black males, but became more widespread during the current season.

But the protests aren’t the only cause of viewership declines. According to CBS News, some experts have provided a range of possible additional factors, such as growing concerns about traumatic brain injuries suffered by players and the NFL broadcasting too many games. CNN cites an overall decline in network television viewership as potentially having an impact.

Papa John’s has decided to pull some of its previously planned commercials that were going to run during NFL games. Schnatter asserts that NFL officials have promised to provide the pizza chain with additional ad spots in the future in return.

The pizza company does expect sales to increase this year by 1.5 percent, but that is significantly lower than previous estimates.