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John Schnatter, the founder and CEO of pizza chain Papa John’s, is stepping down as CEO after making remarks that the peaceful protests of the National Anthem in the NFL hurt sales. Schnatter will remain chairman of the company as leadership is shifted to an executive within the organization.

CNBC reports:

Papa John’s says its founder John Schnatter will step down as CEO next month, about two months after he publicly criticized the NFL leadership over national anthem protests by football players.

The company said Thursday that Schnatter remains chairman but be replaced as chief executive by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on Jan. 1.

Schnatter had blamed slowing sales growth on the outcry surrounding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Papa John’s International Inc. is an NFL sponsor and advertiser.

White supremacists and others praised Schantter for his comments regarding the NFL made during a Nov. 1 conference call, which the company apologized for two weeks later. Pizza brand competitors, perhaps sensing blood in the water, took to social media to mock Papa John’s and the stance taken by Schnatter in the process.

The company has not confirmed if Schnatter’s comments were the reason for his stepping down.

Photo: WENN