Pizza Hut CEO says protesting NFL players haven't hurt his business as Trump donor Papa John blames them for decline

  • Pizza Hut executives say that controversy surrounding NFL players’ protest during the national anthem haven’t impacted sales.
  • Meanwhile, Papa John’s CEO blamed the league for decreased sales and slammed NFL leadership.
  • Pizza delivery during live sporting events are crucial sales drivers for both pizza chains.

While Papa John’s says sales have been hit hard by controversy over NFL players’ national anthem protests, Pizza Hut executives say its sales haven’t been affected at all.

“We’re not seeing impact on any of that on our business,” Greg Creed, CEO of Pizza Hut’s parent company Yum Brands, said in a call with investors on Thursday.

Creed said that Pizza Hut does benefit from live sporting events, including baseball, college football, and the NFL. Pizza Hut is the official sponsor of the NCAA, making college sports especially important to the chain.

John schnatterMichael Hickey/Getty ImagesPapa John’s CEO John Schnatter

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

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

Many on the right rallied around Papa John’s and Schnatter following his comments. However, others roasted the Papa John’s founder for blaming players protesting racial inequality for poor sales, as opposed to acknowledging subpar pizza could have played a role.

It is worth noting that, while sales during NFL games are important to both Papa John’s and Pizza Hut, the two pizza chains do not have identical relationships with the professional football league.

Papa John’s is the official pizza of the NFL. According to executives, that means when people have negative perceptions of the league, this negativity carries over to the pizza chain. The company began its partnership with the NFL in 2010 and has “Preferred Pizza” partnerships with 23 NFL teams.

Additionally, Schnatter has a much longer history of speaking his mind on political issues than Creed. The Papa John’s founder — who donated $US1,000 to President Trump’s campaign — previously sparked controversy by speaking out against Obamacare. Creed did not donate to either campaign.

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