BLOWBACK: Papa John's CEO Steps Down After Criticizing NFL Leadership

Slammed NFL for mishandling national anthem protests.

Papa John’s founder and CEO, John Schnatter, announced that he is leaving his position after he criticized NFL leadership earlier this year for its poor handling of the national anthem protests which led to praise from a white supremacist site.

Papa John’s promoted Steve Ritchie, the company’s current president, to replace Schnatter effective January 1, 2018, the company said in a statement.

Schnatter slammed the NFL in November on a call with investors after the league fumbled its response to the national anthem protests.

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

Papa John’s press release highlighted Ritchie’s rise through the company, from a low-level hourly employee to CEO in 21 years:

Mr. Ritchie, 43, started with Papa John's in 1996 as a customer service representative at $6 per hour. In 2006, he became a Papa John's franchise owner and operator, then in 2010 began serving in increasing capacities of leadership in operations until being promoted to Chief Operating Officer in 2014. Ritchie was added to the succession plan for the company's top job in 2015 when he was named President.

"I am so proud of Steve — he has excelled at every job he's ever held at Papa John's — from being an hourly customer service rep, to a delivery driver, store general manager, director of operations, franchisee and most recently President," Schnatter said. "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. We couldn't have a more proven leader to guide Papa John's through its next stage of growth."

Business Insider noted that Schnatter’s comments — which the publication called "controversial" — were not the first example of the company’s founder speaking his mind on political issues.

Schnatter reportedly came under fire in 2012 for criticizing Obamacare, which he said would be a "lose-lose" for the company and its employees. Schnatter said the health care law would cost his company millions of dollars and would drive up the cost of pizza, which would hurt business.

Papa John's said that after Schnatter steps down, he will "pursue his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development and education."

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