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Papa John's CEO blames NFL for slower sales

Papa John's is blaming NFL protests, not the taste of its pizza, for lackluster sales.

On Tuesday afternoon, the company released its third-quarter financial report, which revealed that sales rose just 1 percent at locations in North American, below expectations; at the same time a year ago, sales were up 5.5 percent. Shares dropped 11 percent on Wednesday, and CEO and founder John Schnatter, who owns about 25 percent of Papa John's, lost $70 million; Forbes estimates he's now worth $801 million.

Papa John's sponsors and advertises with the NFL, and Schnatter isn't accepting any of the blame for his company's troubles. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders," he said during a call with analysts Wednesday. "This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago." Schnatter was referring to players taking a knee during the National Anthem, started as a way to bring attention to police brutality against blacks. He said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is showing "poor leadership" by allowing this to go on. NFL ratings have gone down over the last two years, but other companies said they aren't concerned — Kohl's announced last week it will launch a holiday ad campaign with the NFL, and Buffalo Wild Wings said it's not at all concerned about losing business due to lower ratings.