The NFL’s national anthem debate veered slightly into the absurd last autumn when John Schnatter, founder and then-CEO of Papa John’s, blamed the company’s poor quarterly earnings report on the “controversy,” saying it was an aftereffect of the league’s “poor leadership” and “should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.” The company, which had been the NFL’s official pizza sponsor since 2010 and advertised heavily during games, quickly went into damage-control mode, apologizing for Schnatter’s comments and eventually removing him as CEO effective Jan. 1.

The damage was done, nevertheless, and in February Papa John’s announced it would be severing ties with the NFL. So, based on Schnatter’s logic, one would think Papa John’s financial fortunes would have improved after splitting with the league.


On Tuesday, the company reported that comparable sales had fallen 5.3 percent from a year earlier in its North American business, a decline new CEO Steve Ritchie said was expected in an earnings call with reporters.

Papa John’s has reported declining sales in every quarter since the third quarter of 2016, with business analysts speculating that the company has done a poor job dealing with competition from third-party delivery services such as Grubhub and Uber Eats (in November, Ritchie speculated that such services had the potential to have only “a small impact” on his company’s business). During Tuesday’s earnings call, Ritchie said the company’s chief goal is improving its “brand differential messaging” by “emphasizing our quality story in new ways to better reach our customers.”

The NFL replaced Papa John’s with Pizza Hut, another slice purveyor that has seen its share of slumps. But after parent company Yum Brands pumped $130 million into new equipment, technology and marketing and instituted lower prices and a rewards program, Pizza Hut announced that same-store sales were up 1 percent in its most recent earnings call earlier this month (though that fell short of analysts’ expectations).

Read more from The Post: