Papa John’s is the official pizza of the NFL. But it seems that some NFL players, in kneeling to protest law enforcement’s racially targeted brutality, were not doing their part to boost pizza sales for the company. Such was the position taken by Papa John’s founder and soon-to-be-former CEO.
JEFFERSONTOWN, KENTUCKY — John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, will be stepping down from that position once the New Year arrives. Numerous media reports say the move is in relation to Schnatter’s comments earlier this fall regarding NFL players protesting of the national anthem. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the protest of remaining seated during the playing of the national anthem last year to call attention to police brutality.
Kaepernick then modified the protest to kneeling during the playing of the anthem and was joined by a handful of fellow players on various teams. The protests, though involving only a handful of players, continued this year unabated and drew the ire of President Trump — who suggested that team owners should fire players who participate and – though not mentioning Kaepernick or any other players by name – referred to them as “sons of bitches.” That single act increased the number of players kneeling during the national anthem to 204 across the league the Sunday after President Trump made his remarks.
Some owners of teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, had talked tough about players’ participation. He threatened players with being benched if they kneeled; then joined with them, kneeling and locking arms, the Sunday after Trump made his “sons of bitches’ remark; then took his show on the road to the NFL owners meeting trying to have league-wide penalties put in place to penalize protesting players. His bizarre antics led nowhere.
Enter Papa John’s.
Schnatter blamed the protests for what he said were the pizza chain’s poor sales on a November 1 conference call with investors:
“The NFL has hurt us … We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this… Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said, noting he thought the issue had been “nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”
Papa John’s had been named the official pizza of the NFL. Although other team owners believe the Cowboys’ Jones was behind Schnatter’s words and the franchise apologized for Schnatter’s accusation, Schnatter’s statement itself elicited no outrage. The life-and-death issue of why Kaepernick began his protest – the seeming impunity that police have when it comes to the killing of African-Americans – was lost and twisted into poor sales numbers.
That would make Schnatter the latest in a long line of figures to lose their jobs due to insensitive statements about the African-American victims of police shootings and the protests in their name.
An emergency medical services supervisor, a fire captain, and numerous police officers have all been relieved of their employment following social media posts. The posts either celebrated the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police – one celebrated an activist’s suicide; another celebrated the death of Heather Heyer, a white anti-racist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia – or condemned the Black Lives Matter movement for protesting systemic injustices. One St. Paul, Minnesota police officer resigned after telling motorists how to run over Black Lives Matter protesters — as in, “this is how you do it and get away with it.”
Whether it’s those who are charged with public safety or the pizza guy with the familiar face, what unites all of these responses is the cavalier attitude towards the importance of black lives. The very reason Colin Kaepernick protested during the playing of the national anthem in the first place.