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Papa John's Out, Pizza Hut In As Official NFL Pizza Sponsor

From athlete protests to the alt-right, Papa John's and the NFL have certainly had a rocky relationship.

by Mayukh Sen
Feb 28 2018, 6:31pm

Photo courtesy Zeno Group

As of Wednesday morning, Pizza Hut will be the official pizza sponsor of the NFL moving forward, the two companies announced in a joint statement.

This news follows Tuesday evening's announcement that Papa John's and the NFL had decided to end their partnership, which stretches back to 2010 and was slated to end in 2020. The decision to terminate the sponsorship, the statement read, was "a mutual decision" between both companies.

The end of this relationship wasn't exactly shocking. It’s been an invariably rocky few months for the partnership between Papa John’s and the NFL. Troubles began last October, when former Papa John's CEO John Schnatter blamed the chain's slumping sales on lower NFL ratings. He argued that ratings had fallen because viewers were turned off by athletes who chose to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and other forms of racial injustice in America. Quite a labyrinthine leap in logic, soem might say.

After the chain's stocks plummeted and the alt-right cozied up to the pizza brand, Schnatter walked back on his comments and apologized for sowing discord. The damage seems to have been irreparable, however: Schnatter stepped down from his post as CEO in late December.

In a press release, NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell cited Pizza Hut’s “focus on family, friends and fun” as a chief reason for why it’s chosen the pizza chain as its partner for the future.

Neither Pizza Hut, the NFL, nor Papa John’s responded to immediate request for further comment from MUNCHIES on Wednesday morning, though ESPN reported that the partnership between Pizza Hut and the NFL will last until 2021.

As for poor Papa John's, perhaps the end of this deal will free up some time to focus on improving the quality of their famously sub-stellar pizza and those "better ingredients" we keep hearing about.