Papa John’s Founder Out as CEO After Criticizing NFL Anthem Protests

And because the chain became the official pizza of the alt-right?

John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s, has stepped down as CEO, according to a company announcement on Thursday. A report by Business Insider says the shake up is over Schnatter’s criticisms of the NFL anthem protests.

Papa John’s is the official pizza of the NFL and as ratings fell for games, so did pizza sales. Schnatter blamed those lagging sales and the resulting stock drop on the players disrespecting the country. He also aimed criticism straight to the top of the league when speaking to investors earlier this year:

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”

Schnatter’s public comments grabbed the attention of the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer which asked if Papa John’s became the “official pizza of the alt-right,” bringing unwanted associations with the fringe group. 

Papa John’s has replaced Schnatter with Steve Ritchie, the company’s president. Schnatter will continue as chairman and will still own 25% of the company he started in a broom closet in 1984.

As Business Insider points out, Schnatter has stepped down as CEO once before due to poor sales. The report also noted his conservative leanings which have gotten him in hot water before:

Schnatter came under fire in 2012 for saying that the Affordable Care Act could be "lose-lose" for Papa John's franchisees and employees. Schnatter argued that Obamacare would cost Papa John's $5 million-$8 million annually and ultimately drive up the price of pizza.  

Schnatter has also spoken out extensively against over-regulation. In his 2017 book "Papa: The Story of Papa John's Pizza," Schnatter argued that regulations are steering the US away from the system of free enterprise he believes is crucial to the nation's success.

"America in 2016 is on the path to becoming what Germany was in 1867," Schnatter writes in "Papa."

Back in January, Schnatter told Business Insider, “You've got to have free markets with limited government, with the proper amount of regulation where you don't jam entrepreneurship.”

Schnatter, who gave $1,000 to Donald Trump’s campaign, also said the current president deserves “a chance to either do better things or to botch it.”

More proof that being publicly conservative makes one a pariah.