Papa John’s, the popular pizza chain and National Football League sponsor, did an apparent about-face and now says it supports the NFL players’ right to protest during the national anthem, adding that CEO John Schnatter’s comments two weeks ago in which he blamed the NFL for poor leadership were misunderstood, People reported.
“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,” the company stated in a series of three tweets.
During the conference call about the company’s falling profits, Schnatter said the NFL’s failure to resolve the protest has been harmful to Papa John’s revenues. Consequently, the company said it will pull its NFL television ads. His comments were viewed by many as a rebuke of the protest, led by Black football players who are calling attention to police brutality against Black men. At the same time, pulling the ads appeared to be evidence that the NFL boycott movement is working by hitting the league where it hurts—the financial bottom line.
The company is taking the middle ground—trying to avoid pushback from those who support the players and, on the other side, those who say kneeling during the national anthem is unpatriotic. Papa John’s now explains that Schnatter’s statements were meant to describe the factors that impacts the company’s profits, and apologized if anyone found the comments divisive. A company spokesman added that it only became apparent last week that people misunderstood the CEO’s comments.