Papa John’s says ‘the NFL has hurt us,’ cites declining sales

Papa John is laying the blame for his company's declining sales at the feet of Roger Goodell and the NFL protests.

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The CEO and founder of Papa John's International Inc., John Schnatter, said in a conference call with other company executives that the NFL commissioner's "poor leadership" was to blame for the continued coverage of the national anthem protests, which damaged viewership and ratings, Bloomberg reports.

“The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” Schnatter said Wednesday. “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.”

The company demonstrated its frustration by pulling advertising from the NFL, and the league returned with promises of guaranteed future ad spots, ESPN reports.

>> RELATED: NFL Commissioner says league will get number of players protesting “at zero”

According to Bloomberg, the pizza chain saw shares fall over the course of eight months and reduced its revenue and profit estimates.

President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie shared on the call that because of Papa John’s massive sponsorship deal with the league — and 23 individual teams — they are able to track share performance alongside the NFL’s and that the decline is expected “to persist unless a solution is put in place.”

Papa John's is one of many vocal opponents of Goodell's handling of the anthem protests, but with the company being the official NFL pizza sponsor, the criticism could potentially harm the commissioner's own contract renewal.

"This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago," Schnatter remarked. "Like many sponsors, we're in touch with the NFL. Once the issue is resolved, we're optimistic the NFL's best years are ahead."

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