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Papa John’s owner blames sagging sales on NFL anthem protests and league leadership

If you ask the CEO of Papa John’s, there’s a straight line from his pizza company’s sagging third-quarter earnings through the NFL’s national anthem demonstrations to what he says is poor leadership at the top in the NFL.

This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago, John Schnatter said in prepared remarks (via Chris Otts of Like many sponsors, we are in contact with the NFL and once the issue is resolved between the players and the owners, we are optimistic that the NFL’s best years are ahead. But good or bad, leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.

As Awful Announcing pointed out, this is not the first time Schnatter, a Republican Party donor, has weighed in on a political issue in the context of his company’s performance. In 2012, he warned that Papa John’s might have to raise prices on its pizza by 11 to 14 cents per pie to offset penalties he claimed would be imposed under the Affordable Care Act.

The company has a deal with the NFL as well as with 23 individual teams and the league has not responded to a request for comment. On social media, most replied that Papa John’s problem lies in its product.

The amount ESPN pays by itself isn’t all that far from what the other three networks pay combined �� somewhere around $3.5 billion per season �� and they all get the Super Bowl every couple of years. NBC comes out even better: It gets the Super Bowl plus the right to more or less craft its late-season schedule as it sees fit.

In any case, ESPN says it’s happy with its current NFL agreement. For an all-sports network with hours and hours of programming to fill �� plus an entire digital sports platform to maintain �� the right to broadcast NFL highlights alone is perhaps worth the high cost. Plus, even if the ratings are down, they’re still better than pretty much everything else on Monday night television.

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