Papa John’s founder steps down as CEO weeks after NFL comments

(Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter will no longer be the CEO of the company once the new year hits.

On Thursday, Papa John’s announced that Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie would replace Schnatter on Jan. 1. However, Schnatter will still be chairman of the board and is still the biggest shareholder.

Ritchie would not say whether or not Schnatter’s comments on the NFL contributed to the decision to step down. Instead, he only said that it was “the right time to make this change.”

Schnatter is the face of the company as well and appears in marketing and images for the company. However, Ritchie did not say whether or not this would change in addition to the leadership change. The company is expected to decide that in early 2018.

‘NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s’

Schnatter came under fire for comments he made in November suggesting that the NFL leadership was responsible for slow sales for the pizza company.

Apparently, Schnatter believed that the controversy over national anthem protests during football games led people to watch football and eat pizza less.

“NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders,” Schnatter said at the time.

–White supremacists want to make Papa John’s the official pizza of the alt-right–

He also added that the protests “should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

Papa John’s issued an apology after the Nov. 1 conference call distancing itself from Schnatter’s comments.

“The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention,” the company said on Twitter.

“We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players’ movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both.”