Papa John's Drops 'Neo-Nazis' Quip Into Apology For Criticizing Anthem Kneelers

Two weeks ago, the CEO of Papa John's, "the official pizza company of the NFL," blasted the "poor leadership" of the league for allowing the divisive national anthem protests to eclipse the play on the field and drive down ratings. On Wednesday, Papa John's issued an apology for what they described as their own "divisive" choice to criticize the league — and threw in a "neo-nazis" quip in the final line for good measure.

On a November 1 conference call, Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter slammed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and other league execs for failing to "resolve" the anthem kneeling controversy, which Schnatter said had hurt his company's sales.

"We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this," said Schnatter. “Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership."

Papa John's threatened to pull its advertising spots amid plummeting ratings and continued public pushback against players refusing to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest "systemic racism" in law enforcement.

On Wednesday, Papa John's issued a statement apologizing for its "divisive" response to the protests. Saying they fully support the players' "right to protest inequality," the company also made clear that they believe all Americans should unite in "honor[ing] our anthem" and that players should find a way to "create a new platform for change." The statement ended with a quip about being open to ideas "from all," except for one particularly divisive group:

The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention. 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. We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward. Open to ideas from all. Except neo-nazis — [middle finger emoji] those guys.

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