NFL sponsor Papa John's apologized Tuesday, two weeks after its founder and CEO, John Schnatter, questioned league leadership for its handling of player protests during the national anthem.
In a series of Twitter posts, the official pizza company of the NFL reiterated that the business challenges related to the league did impact its own business, but the company backtracked on Schnatter's opinion at the time that player protests "should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago."
We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players' movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both. (2/3)
— Papa John's Pizza (@PapaJohns) November 15, 2017
The company went on to tweet that it "will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward. Open to ideas from all."
The apology came two weeks after Schnatter, during an earnings call for the company, expressed disappointment about the league's ongoing player protests during the national anthem.
"The NFL has hurt us," Schnatter said then. "We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership didn't resolve this."
"We posted this today because it became obvious over the last week people didn't understand our position," Papa John's spokesman Peter Collins said Tuesday. "We should have followed our gut from the beginning, but followed advice not to speak up -- it's time we are clear."
Company executives declined to disclose exactly how much money in projected sales Papa John's lost from its association with the NFL and declining ratings, which means fewer people are ordering their product for game days, they said. Papa John's president and chief operating officer Steve Ritchie has said that research has found that Papa John's has been the most recognized sponsor associated with the NFL for two years running, which he said means the company's performance can track with that of the league.
Shares of Papa John's stock are down nearly 12 percent since the earnings call.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.