The CEO of Papa John's pizza John Schnatter was replaced as CEO on Thursday, nearly two months after making controversial comments that NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem were hurting the chain's bottom line.
Papa John's is an NFL sponsor, and on a shareholders call in early November Schnatter said, “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders” by "not resolving the current debacle to the players' and owners' satisfaction.”
President Trump pushed the highly-divisive topic this year in speeches and in Twitter, saying players should be punished or not allowed to kneel during the anthem as a way to protest police brutality. Schnatter, who founded the chain, endorsed Trump for president.
A blog post on the racist website the Daily Stormer proclaimed the company the "official pizza of the alt-right."
Some said Papa John's sales were hit because the pizza isn't that good.
The pizza chain later apologized.
Steve Ritchie will replace Schnatter effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Ritchie, 43, began his career with the pizza chain in 1996 as a customer service representative and slowly worked his way up, eventually becoming a franchisee owner in 2006. Later, he transitioned into the role of COO in 2014 before settling into his most recent role as President.
The news of Ritchie's new role comes on the heels of a year of particularly negative press for the pizza company's brand.
“With 120,000 Papa John’s corporate and franchise employees, Steve will put the spotlight on our pizza and the most important ingredient – our team members," Schnatter said. "We couldn’t have a more proven leader to guide Papa John’s through its next stage of growth.”
Schnatter will stay on with the company and act as chairman.
Michael Blackmon is an entertainment writer with BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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