Papa John's CEO Resigns After Condemning NFL Anthem Protests

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"I think it's possible that this was a conscious decision to get him out of the line of fire", said restaurant analyst John Gordon, who is the founder and CEO of Pacific Management Consulting Group.

Papa John's founder John Schnatter will step down as CEO next month, about two months after he criticized the NFL leadership over national anthem protests by players - comments for which the company later apologized.

Schnatter also raised eyebrows in November when he blamed poor results on a controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

He made comments to investors that "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders" and that the protests "should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago", referring to Colin Kaepernick, 29, who started the movement while playing for the San Francisco 49ers. Steve Ritchie will take over as chief executive. Schnatter, meanwhile, will remain with the company as Chairman and founder. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company distanced itself from the group, saying that it did not want them to buy their pizza. However, Schnatter will still be chairman of the board and is still the biggest shareholder. Since then, it has grown to more than 5,000 locations.

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The league's fans who are upset by the sight of adults engaging in nonviolent protests of this country's history of police brutality, Schnatter and friends concluded, must therefore be ordering fewer meat-and-cheese pies as a result. It was later revealed that the pizza mogul also had supported President Donald Trump's campaign for president.

The company's stock is down a whopping 13 percent his he made his polarizing player protest comments.

Is Papa John's throwing in the towel? He claimed that to insure his employees he would need to raise the costs of pizza and deliveries. Ritchie has been with Papa John's since 2006.

Ritchie said he will focus on making it easier to order Papa John's from anywhere, including form tweets, text messages, and voice-activated devices. Whether Schnatter will continue as spokesman has not been decided, Ritchie said.

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