Pizza Hut Now NFL’s Official Pizza, Papa John’s Out After Complaining About Anthem Protests

Gerald HerbertAP Images

Four months after complaining that NFL players’ protests during the National Anthem were hurting sales, Papa John’s Pizza is no longer the official pizza of the National Football League. Both sides claimed Tuesday it was a mutually-agreed-upon separation.

It did not take long for the league to find a replacement. The Dallas Morning News reported today that the NFL and Pizza Hut had signed a four-year deal that will start with the NFL draft this summer.

While terms of the deal were not announced, Pizza Hut will reportedly pay more to the NFL than Papa’s John’s did.

The agreement will allow Pizza Hut to use the logos of all 32 NFL teams, as well as to offer tickets and other league merchandise in promotions.

The departure of Papa John’s marked the first time an NFL corporate partner has left in the middle of a contract. The decision came following a controversy late in the 2017 season.

Papa John’s founder and former CEO John Schnatter said the National Anthem protests, which were started by some players in response to the treatment of African-Americans by police officers, were hurting its sales.

Schnatter’s remarks came at the same time that President Donald Trump was tweeting about the protests on a regular basis, claiming they were unpatriotic and were disrespectful to those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Papa John’s, which had been the official pizza of the NFL since 2010, removed the league logo from its boxes and all of its advertising and became the pizza of choice for some who agreed with Trump’s disdain for the protests, according to the Blaze.

While Schnatter’s statement received some approval, Papa John’s sales and stock price continued to drop. For the last three months of 2017, the company’s sales dropped a reported 3-9 percent, even though its sales for the entire calendar year were slightly up from 2016.

NFL and Papa John's end their agreement after eight years
Featured image credit: David RichardAP Images

Papa John’s continues to have regional deals with 22 NFL teams, but how long that will remain the case is in question.

The NFL’s new deal with Pizza Hut provides opportunities for the company to seek deals with all 32 teams, according to the Dallas Morning News, with the league encouraging those partnerships.

Artie Starrs, president of Pizza Hut’s U.S. division, told CNBC the company is looking forward to beginning a new relationship with the National Football League.

“At our core we are an innovative, entertaining brand and I think that’s what the NFL is too.”