- Hollis Johnson
- Pizza Hut executives say that controversy surrounding NFL players’ protests during the national anthem hasn’t affected sales. Meanwhile, Papa John’s CEO has blamed the league for decreased sales and slammed NFL leadership. Delivery during live sporting events is crucial a sales driver for both pizza chains.
While Papa John’s says sales have been hit hard by the controversy over NFL players’ national-anthem protests, Pizza Hut executives say its sales haven’t been affected at all.
Greg Creed, the CEO of Pizza Hut’s parent company, Yum Brands, said in a call with investors on Thursday that the chain wasn’t seeing any impact from the controversy on its business and that Pizza Hut benefitted from live sporting events including baseball, college football, and professional football. Pizza Hut is an official sponsor of the NCAA.
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem last year to protest racial injustice and police brutality. The controversy over the protests was renewed in September after President Donald Trump said players who did so should be fired.
- Michael Hickey/Getty Images
On Wednesday, the founder and CEO of Papa John’s, John Schnatter, chalked up lower-than-expected sales to the NFL’s declining ratings amid the players’ protests.
“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said.
Many on the right rallied around Papa John’s and Schnatter following his comments. Others, however, roasted Schnatter for blaming the protests for poor sales as opposed to acknowledging that subpar pizza could have played a role.
It is worth noting that while sales during NFL games are important to both Papa John’s and Pizza Hut, the two pizza chains have different relationships with the league.
Papa John’s is the official pizza of the NFL, and experts have said that means that people’s negative perceptions of the league can carry over to the pizza chain. The company began its partnership with the NFL in 2010 and has “preferred pizza” partnerships with 23 teams.
Additionally, Schnatter has a much longer history of speaking his mind on political issues than Creed does.
The Papa John’s founder – who donated $1,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign – previously sparked controversy by speaking out against Obamacare, the healthcare law officially called the Affordable Care Act. Creed did not donate to either Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s campaign.