After seeing its shares fall by 11 percent, the head of Papa John’s pizza chain is directing blame at the controversy surrounding the NFL national anthem protests.
“The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” the company’s founder and CEO John Schnatter said during a conference call on Wednesday, Bloomberg reports. “Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” he added.
Papa John’s has been the official pizza chain of the NFL since 2010, and this season has seen a five percent decline in viewership—though, as Sports Illustrated points out, that is a small figure compared to television as a whole.
Want the ultimate dish on the latest celebrity food news, plus exclusive recipes, videos and more? Click here to subscribe to the People Food newsletter.
After Schnatter directed his comments at the league’s leadership, the company quickly began trending on Twitter on Wednesday. Users accused him of blaming the players protesting racial inequality—and missed no opportunity to take jabs at their quality of pizza.
“Papa Johns? Yeah, I’ll have a large peppero—”
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) November 1, 2017
Papa Johns would rather blame poor sales on NFL players kneeling than accept the fact that Little Caesars Hot N Ready is for the people.
— Marcella Arguello (@marcellacomedy) November 1, 2017
LOL @ Papa Johns blaming the NFL for their poor sales. The fact that their pizza is complete garbage couldn’t possibly be a factor.
— mmmmK (@RedPenRants) November 1, 2017
WATCH: NFL Players Kneel During Anthem in Defiance of President Trump
Papa Johns pizza is trash. That’s why their stock is declining. Easily the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard today to blame protests.
— ShadyPenguinn (@Shadypenguinn) November 1, 2017
Papa Johns, you blaming your decline in sales on players kneeling is absolutely ridiculous. Let’s talk about your mediocre pizza 🤔
— Adriana (@Holaaddi) November 1, 2017
Since the 2017 season began, the NFL protests have sparked a national political debate, with countless celebrities standing in solidarity with the players kneeling during the anthem, while others—like President Donald Trump—call the movement unpatriotic.