Papa John's and the NFL have ended their sponsorship deal after the company's former CEO says anthem protests hurt sales. 

By Daniel Rapaport
February 27, 2018

Papa John's is no longer the official pizza of the NFL, as the two sides have mutually agreed to end their sponsorship deal, per ESPN's Darren Rovell

A joint statement said Papa John's would shift its focus to local deals with 22 of the league's 32 teams, as well as a greater "presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport. 

Papa John's had been the league's official pizza sponsor since 2010. It's the first time an NFL sponsor has canceled its agreement before the completion of its deal, according to Rovell. 

In October, Papa John's founder John Schnatter—who has appeared in the company's television commercials and whose likeness remains the centerpiece of the company's logo—blamed NFL players' protests during the national anthem for the chain's decrease in sales. He was replaced as CEO on January 1 by Steve Ritchie, ostensibly in connection with his comments on the protests, though he has remained as chairman of the board. 

Schnatter eventually apologized for the remarks. 

Papa John's Pizza is based in Jeffersontown, Kentucky and has more than 4,700 locations. 

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