Wingstop's CEO defies Papa John's by saying the NFL isn't hurting business

  • Wingstop’s CEO has said that controversy surrounding NFL players’ protests during the national anthem hasn’t affected sales.
  • Meanwhile, the CEO of Papa John’s has blamed the league for its disappointing sales, slamming NFL leadership.
  • Both customers and rival pizza brands have criticised Papa John’s for blaming the national anthem protests.

Wingstop’s CEO says that NFL players kneeling during the national anthem isn’t hurting the wing chain’s sales.

“If you look at the [comparable sales] trends, we have not seen any sort of meaningful impact from the NFL,” Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison said in a call with investors on Thursday.

According to Morrison, timing of certain games can affect Wingstop sales, but otherwise, the chain hasn’t seen any negative impact from the league’s ratings, which have declined over the last two seasons.

Last year, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. The controversy over the protests was renewed in September after President Donald Trump said players who did so should be fired.

On Wednesday, the founder and CEO of Papa John’s, John Schnatter, chalked up lower-than-expected sales to the NFL’s declining ratings amid the players’ protests.

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said.

On Thursday, Pizza Hut’s parent company, Yum Brands, discussed the topic during a call with investors, saying that the controversy was not impacting the chain’s sales.

It is worth noting that while sales during NFL games are important to Wingstop, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut, the three pizza chains all have different relationships with the league.

Papa John’s is the official pizza of the NFL, and experts have said that means that people’s negative perceptions of the league can carry over to the pizza chain. The company began its partnership with the NFL in 2010 and has “preferred pizza” partnerships with 23 teams.

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