Papa John's founder steps down after blaming anthem protests for slumping sales

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Schnatter, whose pizza is an official NFL sponsor, blamed his company's financial losses on NFL players protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.

Surprised at all? He did it to himself.

Company shares are down 13 percent since the National Football League announcement was made. However, Schnatter will still be chairman of the board and is still the biggest shareholder. Schnatter owns about 9.5 million shares of Papa John's International Inc., and his total stake was valued at more than $560 million on Thursday, according to FactSet.

Schnatter offered praise for Ritchie, saying "I am so proud of Steve...we couldn't have a more proven leader to guide Papa John's through its next stage of growth".

"I think it's possible that this was a conscious decision to get him out of the line of fire", said restaurant analyst John Gordon, who is the founder and CEO of Pacific Management Consulting Group.

Both those comments wound up hurting the company even more.

Some left-wing critics have said that Schnatter's departure as CEO isn't enough to convince them to support the company given that he will remain chairman of the board. He claimed that to insure his employees he would need to raise the costs of pizza and deliveries.

This is not the first time Schnatter has stepped down as CEO.

The pizza chain has seen its stock price decline about 13 percent since the remarks were made and down about 30 percent since the beginning of this year.

John Schnatter, founder of Papa John's pizza restaurants, in pool w. his trainer, doing stretches during workout at home.

Ritchie said new ads would come out next year. That's a strategy that has worked for Domino's, which takes orders from tweets, text messages and voice-activated devices, such as Amazon's Echo. He is being replaced as CEO by company president Steve Ritchie. He became a franchise owner in 2006 and owns nine locations. The 43-year-old, who began as a Papa John's customer-service rep making $6 an hour in 1996, has been chief operating officer for the past three years.

"The NFL has hurt us", Schnatter said.

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