Courtesy of Papa John's via Instagram
Courtesy of Papa John's via Instagram

The NFL has recently seen a dramatic decline in ratings. For pizza joints that depend on game-day munchies, low ratings are bad for business.

Colin Kaepernick has received criticism from many for his protest of the treatment of people of color in the United States. Now, Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter is claiming that the NFL protests are hurting his company’s sales: “The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction.”

If America’s pizza’s sales are down, the fact Papa John’s blames the NFL is bad news, from the perspective of revenue and also public relations. Owners cannot be thrilled to have a key sponsor angry with them, and cannot be pleased to have that sponsor trashing them publicly.

Papa John’s says that NFL owners should’ve put a stop to the protest while in “early development.” If the official pizza of the NFL is questioning its sponsorship with the NFL, all interested parties should ask: What’s Papa John’s willing to do toward resolving the situation?

“If the viewership decline continues, we will need to shift into things that work more effectively for us,” Papa John’s President and COO Steve Ritchie told the Wall Street Journal. “We are anxiously awaiting a solution [to the anthem issue] to be created that will put the league in a positive place for the players, fan base and associated partners.”

Papa John’s should recognize that what the players are protesting is not the national anthem, but the core of America — racism and institutional inequality and injustice.

Papa John’s believes the drop in ratings relates to the lingering anthem controversy and criticized NFL leadership, adding that the issue should have been “nipped in the bud” at the beginning of last season. A company spokesman emphatically denies that his company pressured the league to ban protests, WSJ reported. Instead, he said the situation had revealed issues with the company’s decision to invest in television advertising, allocating a “huge percentage” of its fall and winter marketing budget to the NFL.

“We have to evaluate our reliance on partnerships that are TV-focused,” the spokesman said

Papa John’s has a sponsorship agreement with the league as well as with 23 individual teams. Stadium presentations and introductions are evolving in the NFL.

As the protests are countered by team staffs, it should be pointed out that Schnatter, who has net worth of 1 billion, could do more for America than stand on sidelines and gripe. He has the clout and influence to affect many of the inequities Blacks’ endure.

Schnatter is an evangelical Christian and needs to first focus on the fact that the black players’ protest is not about the national anthem. He should however, look to see if there is bigotry in the “Star-Spangled Banner” and as to whether white superiority is at play here. A real, Christian American patriot would use his voice and influence toward effecting parity in America, on the field and in his company’s boardroom.

On any given Sunday, the NFL show goes on. On most Sundays, blacks are one of eight Americans munching a slice of country’s favorite fast food. Americans spend $37 billion a year on pizza. On any given day 12 percent of whites eat pizza, compared to 8 percent of non-Hispanic blacks. Is there room in Americans’ heart for blacks’ protest?

American business success story that he is, Papa John Schnatter could do more by nurturing aspiring entrepreneurs through youth achievement groups and franchise and supplier opportunities. These days, Papa John’s International, Inc. operates and franchises pizza delivery and carryout restaurants and dine-in restaurants under the trademark Papa John’s. The company operates 5,097 Papa John’s restaurants. Blacks should be asking Papa John, “What are you doing about more black-run run stores?”

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via

William Reed

William Reed is President and Chief Executive Officer of Black Press International. He has been a Media Entrepreneur for over two decades. A well-trained marketing and communications professional, Reed...

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