Papa John's founder out as CEO weeks after National Football League comments

Danny Moloshok  Reuters
John Schnatter founder and chief executive of Papa John's Pizza waves goodbye

Schnatter, 56, founded Papa John's more than 30 years ago, turning a broom closet at his father's bar into a pizza spot.

Papa John's founder John Schnatter took plenty of heat for his comments about the NFL's handling of anthem protests.

The AP reports that Ritchie did not comment on whether the controversy over Schnatter's comments were part of the reason for this move, saying only that now is "the right time to make this change".

In revising sales estimates for the next quarter, Papa John's president and chief operating officer Steve Ritchie said on the call that the National Football League deal was the primary suspect behind the decline and that "we expect it to persist unless a solution is put in place". It issued apologies on social media and even had to condemn whit supremacy after a neo-Nazi site, The Daily Stormer, endorsed Papa John's and published a post that asked if the chain was "the official pizza of the alt-right".

In his 2017 book "Papa: The Story of Papa John's Pizza", Schnatter argued that regulations are steering the USA away from the system of free enterprise he believes is crucial to the nation's success. He also leaned towards a more conservative view of Colin Kaepernick's protest of police brutality by way of kneeling during the national anthem.

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"This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago", Schnatter said on a conference call with investors.

Today, Papa John's stock closed a 2-cent loss. He stepped down in 2005, but returned in 2008.

"You've got to have free markets with limited government, with the proper amount of regulation where you don't jam entrepreneurship", Schnatter said. "We couldn't have a more proven leader to guide Papa John's through its next stage of growth".

In the role, Papa John's said, Ritchie will lead the chain's global development and facilitate brand's marketing, digital, and customer experience evolution.

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