Major sponsor of NFL broadcasts blames sales decline on kneeling controversy

Becoming the NFL's "official pizza sponsor" worked out well for Papa John's until Colin Kaepernick launched his protests.  Yesterday, the chain's founder, John Schnatter, blamed the NFL kerfuffle for his company's same-store sales decline that sparked a 13% tumble in its stock price.  In a post-earnings report conference call, via Bloomberg:

"The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players' and owners' satisfaction," Schnatter, who serves as the pizza chain's chairman and chief executive officer, said on a conference call. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders." ...

"Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership," Schnatter said.

This has got to scare the NFL owners, if they have any brains.  It is evidence that their brand is becoming toxic.  For years, companies have sought identification with the NFL by licensing, advertising, sky box rentals, Super Bowl events, and other expensive investments.  That process is now working in reverse.

Schnatter has appeared frequently in advertisements during NFL games, including alongside star quarterback Peyton Manning, a franchisee of the chain's restaurants in Colorado. Back in 2014, when Papa John's posted a nearly 10 percent gain in North American same-store sales, the company credited its close relationship with the NFL and Manning for driving its business in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the tone was quite different. Papa John's post-earnings conference call was dominated by negative talk of the NFL. The league's name came up 44 times during the discussion, compared with 12 mentions in the year-earlier call.

I can certainly report that any company associating itself with the NFL loses points with me.  It makes me much less likely to patronize that company.  I am sick of privileged millionaires telling me I am the cause of their oppression.  And I suspect that at least 30% of Americans feel the same way.

That's enough to make companies head for the hills when their business deals with the NFL come up for renegotiation at the end of their contracts.

Is anyone among the NFL owners going to wake up and recognize the catastrophe they have created?

Hat tip: Ed Lasky