clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Papa John’s Founder ‘Papa’ John Schnatter Stepping Down as CEO

He will remain with the company as chairman

John Schnatter
John Schnatter.
Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

John Schnatter is stepping down as chief executive officer at his namesake delivery pizza company, Papa John’s. Schnatter will move into a new position as company chairman, according to a Thursday press release.

Reason for the change was not announced, but it comes less than two months after Schnatter blamed falling sales on protesting National Football League players. Schnatter said the protests, in which mostly African-American players kneel during the pre-game national anthem, “should have been nipped in the bud” last year, and that they were causing “negative consumer sentiment.” Papa John’s has a sponsorship deal as the “official pizza” of the NFL.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is currently out of work and believes he is being blackballed by NFL owners, first began kneeling during the anthem in August 2016. Kaepernick and fellow demonstrators say they are protesting police brutality and other social injustices faced by people of color in America. Detractors have painted the protestors as anti-military and anti-American, and the issue became a front-page story when President Donald Trump angrily addressed it during a rally in September 2017, calling the players in question “sons of bitches” who are “disrespecting the flag.”

Immediately following Schnatter’s comments, Papa John’s was ridiculed on the internet and endorsed by white supremacists. Public relations director Peter Collins was forced to release a statement saying the company does not want the business of racist individuals or hate groups.

Steve Ritchie will take over as Papa John’s CEO effective January 1. Ritchie started with the company as a customer service representative in 1996, according to Thursday’s announcement.

Papa John’s Promotes Steve Ritchie to CEO [Official]
NFL protests 2017: What are players protesting when kneeling for the national anthem? [SB Nation]
Papa John’s Blames NFL Protests for Falling Sales [E]
Papa John’s Tells Neo-Nazis Not to Buy Its Garbage Pizza [E]