Papa John’s: We didn’t mean to come to be ‘divisive’ on NFL protests

Papa John’s is wanting to repair the damage due to its CEO’s controversial responses about the NFL protests.

Fourteen days ago, CEO John Schnatter triggered fierce criticism by declaring the pizza chain’s sales were hurt by the NFL’s handling of the controversy over players kneeling through the National Anthem to protest law enforcement violence and racial injustice.

“This should have been nipped in the bud a season and a half back,” Schnatter stated on a meeting call with investors. “The controversy is usually polarizing the client, polarizing the country.”

Related: Papa John’s says NFL protests will be hurting sales

The comments spurred a backlash on cultural media, made the company the butt of jokes on night time shows and forced it to distance itself from neo-Nazi groups.

On Tuesday night time, Papa John’s — which has been a league sponsor since 2010 — attempted an apology on Twitter.

“The statements made about our earnings phone were describing the elements that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive,” it said. “That definitely had not been our intention.”

The pizza chain said that it helps “the players’ movement to create a fresh platform for change” but that in addition, it believes that “as Americans, we should honor our anthem.”

“We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward. Open to tips from all. Except neo-nazis,” the company tweeted, supplying a “middle finger” emoji to “those guys.”

We believe in the proper to protest inequality and support the players’ movement to make a new program for change. We also believe together, as Us citizens, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to accomplish both. (2/3) – Papa John’s Pizza (@PapaJohns) November 15, 2017

Last year, then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee through the performance of the anthem to protest the treatment of black Americans, particularly by police.

The protest has grown in the NFL this season with more players engaging. It’s controversial because some people see the take action of kneeling as disrespectful of the flag.

Related: Colin Kaepernick is usually GQ’s ‘Citizen of the Year’

NFL guidelines say players “should” stand for the anthem. While it isn’t required, Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it very clear he wants players to stand.

The protests have also drawn criticism from President Trump, who tweeted that kneeling players should be fired.

On the wages call fourteen days ago, Schnatter blamed Goodell for the protest “debacle.”

“Leadership starts at the very top, and this can be an exemplory case of poor leadership,” Schnatter stated. “The NFL has harm Papa John’s shareholders.”

Related: NFL owners weigh deal extension for Roger Goodell

Regardless of the pizza chain’s efforts Tuesday to address the criticism over those remarks, some community media users weren’t convinced.

“Is this supposed to be Woke Papa John’s Pizza?” tweeted @danibostick. “I’m confused, because your CEO definitely blamed the NFL protests for poor sales and criticized the NFL’s leadership for not really squelching the protests sooner. I don’t observe an apology for that.”

Others disputed the idea that the protesting players would like to work with the company.

You don’t have to “use” them. They want to protest. They don’t really need your permission or to compromise to advantage you. – rachel kiley (@rachelkiley) November 15, 2017

Papa John’s replied for some of the responses, acknowledging that it “should have acted sooner” following Schnatter’s comments.

The NFL couldn’t immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday.

— Nathaniel Meyersohn contributed to the report

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