About two months after he publicly criticized the NFL for its handling of player protests, Papa John's Founder John Schnatter will step down as CEO. Schnatter will be succeeded by current Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on January 1, the company announced Thursday.
Schnatter is not only the CEO, he is the face of the company. He appears in many of Papa John's commercials, often alongside former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. His face is also on the company's pizza boxes. The Papa will remain the company's largest shareholder and chairman of the board.
Papa John's sales slowed this year, and Schnatter publicly pointed the finger at NFL player protests against inequality in America and the mistreatment of people of color by police. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders," Schnatter said on a November 1 earnings call. He continued, claiming the protests "should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago."