Papa John of Papa John's Steps Down as CEO Amidst Controversy

Papa John's CEO to step down after NFL protest comments

John Schnatter has stepped down from his role as CEO of Papa John's global, as the company announced the promotion of Steve Ritchie to that position on Thursday.

The company said its current president, Steve Ritchie, would replace him.

Almost two months after pizza chain Papa John's apologized for comments its CEO made about NFL players' pre-game national anthem protests, the company announced that the chief executive is being replaced.

"We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players' movement to create a new platform for change", the company said. The 56-year-old businessman came under major condemnation after he said Papa John's, an National Football League sponsor and advertiser, had been "hurt" by the "take a knee" protest led by African-American players that raised awareness about police brutality.

But Mr. Schnatter thrust his company into an uncomfortable and highly-political spotlight last month when he remarked about a dip in pizza sales.

Schnatter sparked controversy in November when he slammed NFL leadership over players' kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

"The N.F.L. has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players' and owners' satisfaction", Mr. Schnatter, 56, said on November 1 during a conference call with investors. The company now operates more than 5,000 locations.

"In his duties as Chairman and founder, Schnatter will continue to champion the core principles that led to recognition as the industry leader in product quality and customer satisfaction", the release stated. Papa John's later apologized for the "divisive" comments. "We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem", a statement from the company read.

Papa John's founder John Schnatter will step down as chief executive on January 1, the pizza chain said Thursday. According to the company's website, Schnatter himself still owns more than 9 million shares - a stake worth upwards of $500 million.

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