Papa John's founder steps down as CEO a month after backlash following his criticism of NFL national anthem protests

john schnatter papa john's

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  • Papa John's founder John Schnatter announced plans to step down on Thursday.
  • The news comes a month after Schnatter sparked controversy by slamming NFL leadership for its handling of players' protests during the national anthem.

Papa John's controversial CEO and founder is stepping down. Advertisement

On Thursday, Papa John's announced that founder John Schnatter would step down as CEO. Schnatter will be replaced by the company's current president Steve Ritchie.

Schnatter sparked controversy in November when he slammed NFL leadership over the ongoing national anthem protests.

"Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership," CEO John Schnatter said in a call with investors.
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The CEO's statements quickly inspired backlash on the left and support on the right.

Schnatter owns roughly 25% of Papa John's, and will stay on as chairman after stepping down as CEO in January. According to a press release from the company, he will "pursue his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development and education." Prior to backlash for his comments on the NFL, Schnatter has a history of statements that have sparked political controversey. Advertisement

Schnatter came under fire in 2012 for saying that the Affordable Care Act could be "lose-lose" for Papa John's franchisees and employees. Schnatter argued that Obamacare would cost Papa John's $5-8 million annually and ultimately drive up the price of pizza.

The backlash was swift, with many promising to boycott Papa John's in response to Schnatter's comments. Papa John's shares slumped about 4.2% during the controversy, Forbes reported.

Schnatter has moved away from public political discussions following the Obamacare controversy. The CEO donated $1,000 to President Trump's campaign but did not make any effort to publicly support the politician. Advertisement

"As far as the politics, I have no idea," Schnatter told Business Insider prior to Trump's inauguration. "I do think we ought to give the new administration at least a chance to either do better things or to botch it."

This story is developing and will be updated.

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