- NFL players have been protesting during the national anthem this season, drawing criticism from President Donald Trump and others on the right. The founder and CEO of Papa John’s, an NFL sponsor, blamed the protests for poor pizza sales. Papa John’s is reevaluating its sponsorship, which has led some to wonder about the state of the league’s other deals.
The NFL is facing backlash over players’ protests during the national anthem from President Donald Trump, right-wing fans – and now, at least some of the league’s sponsors.
Last week, Papa John’s CEO and founder John Schnatter said that the chain was disappointed in NFL leadership’s response to players’ protests. According to Schnatter, declining ratings due to the protests had hurt Papa John’s sales and caused the chain to reevaluate its sponsorship.
Papa John’s is likely not alone in pressuring the NFL on the protests.
In late October, NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart told Sports Business Journal that Papa John’s was just one of the top sponsors that had raised concerns regarding the protests. And, according to Linda Yaccarino, the chairman of advertising sales at NBCUniversal: “Marketers have said, ‘We will not be part of the NFL if you continue covering” the protests.
As backlash against Papa John’s built, many wanted to know exactly which sponsors are pressuring the NFL and TV networks in how protests are handled.
“People who believe in justice and dignity want to know which brands are threatening such action,” director Ava DuVernay tweeted on Saturday, with the hashtag “#namenames.”
Business Insider reached out to 18 other NFL sponsors about whether protests are impacting sales and if they are applying pressure to the league. Here are their responses.
If you have any information on sponsors’ efforts to influence the NFL and networks’ treatment of players’ protests, email email@example.com.
Papa John’s public response to the NFL in an earnings call quickly inspired both backlash and support from customers.
“We are totally disappointed that the NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago,” CEO John Schnatter said in a call with investors. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”
Papa John’s same-store sales missed expectations in the most recent quarter, due in part to the NFL’s declining ratings, executives said. The company additionally lowered its North American same-store sales prediction for the year to 1.5%, down from 2-4%.
“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said.
“We have many long-term sports partnerships, including our NFL sponsorship, and while we may not agree on everything, we still believe in the power of sport to bring people together and overcome their differences,” AB InBev said in a statement to Business Insider. “We have no plans to end our NFL sponsorship.”
When AB InBev reported earnings in late October, the company did not mention NFL ratings or protests as a factor that impacted sales in the most recent quarter.
Here’s the rest of the company’s statement:
“At Anheuser-Busch we have a long heritage of supporting the institutions and values that have made America so strong. That includes our armed forces and the national anthem as well as diversity, equality and freedom of speech. We proudly employ over 1,100 military veterans and we work every day to create an inclusive environment for all of our employees. Because only together can we achieve our dream of bringing people together for a better world.
The Anheuser-Busch phone line has always been available for consumer inquiries on a variety of topics, but we are not conducting a survey regarding our NFL sponsorship.”
Dannon is the official yogurt of the NFL.
“Dannon continues to monitor the situation carefully and have not made any changes to their advertising or related plans (current or future),” a spokesperson said in an email to Business Insider.
The company declined to comment further on whether or not it had been in touch with the NFL on protests.
In October, Dannon made headlines after cutting ties with Carolina Panthers player Cam Newton, following the quarterback’s “sexist” comments.
According to FedEx, the company is “encouraging the league, teams and players to open dialogue around the issues that have resulted in recent protests to identify a path forward that will return focus to the amazing and entertaining competition on the field.”
“Honoring and respecting our country and service members is critically important to FedEx,” spokesperson Chris Allen said in a statement. “We respect the rights of athletes and all Americans to free speech and the ability to raise awareness about important issues.”
- Rafi Letzter/Tech Insider
In early October, Bose released a statement showing support for the American flag and players’ freedom to express their opinions:
“Bose was founded in the United States, and our world headquarters is in Massachusetts, where it’s been for over 50 years. It’s now surrounded by several other Bose facilities – and at all of them, at all times, we proudly fly the American flag. It’s a symbol of our great country which protects the freedom for every person to express their views. We respect that freedom, whether we agree with those views or not.”
The company did not respond to Business Insider’s request for an updated statement or information on whether or not the company was pressuring the league or networks regarding protests.
- Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Nike did not respond to Business Insider’s recent request for comment, but in a statement put out in September, it said: “Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society.”
Ford did not yet respond to Business Insider’s request for an updated comment, but told Bloomberg in September that the company does “respect individuals’ rights to express their views, even if they are not ones we share. That’s part of what makes America great.”
- Peter Nicholls/Reuters
“We stand for and respect individuals’ freedoms to express their First Amendment rights in any peaceful manner in which they choose. We also stand for inclusion, freedom and all that represents those values,” Hyundai said in a statement in September.
It also did not yet respond to Business Insider’s request for an updated comment.
- Getty/Spencer Platt
“[Under Armour] stands for the flag and by our Athletes [sic] for free speech, expression and a unified America,” the brand tweeted.
It did not respond to a request for an updated comment.
- Barclaycard US
Barclaycard US is the maker of the NFL Extra Points Credit Card and a division of the bank and financial services firm Barclays.
A representative told Business Insider that Barclaycard US had no comment to offer at this time.
Many NFL sponsors have yet to comment on backlash to the protests.
- Thomson Reuters
The following sponsors did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment: Bridgestone, Campbell’s Soup Company, Castrol, Courtyard Marriott, Dairy Management Inc., Extreme Networks, Visa, Verizon, and Microsoft.