The N.F.L. has broken ties with Papa John’s several months after the company’s former chief executive suggested that its pizza sales had declined in part because of player protests during the national anthem.
The N.F.L. and the pizza company said they were mutually dissolving their national sponsorship deal, and that Papa John’s would focus instead on the smaller sponsorships it has with 22 of the league’s 32 teams.
John Schnatter, the founder of the home-delivery pizza chain and the longtime face of the company, stepped down as chief executive at the start of this year.
Schnatter said on an analyst call at the beginning of November that the N.F.L. should have stopped the protests in 2016, when they began.
“The N.F.L. has been a long and valued partner over the years,” he said. “But we’re certainly disappointed that the N.F.L. and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago. This should’ve been nipped in the bud a year and half ago.”
Two weeks later, the company addressed the statements, apologizing “to anyone who thought they were divisive.”