(Mirror Daily, United States) – Papa John’s founder John Schnatter announced his resignation from the CEO position in January in response to the nationwide backlash to his comments about NFL players’ national anthem protests. The company had apologized for Schnatter’s claims.

Steve Ritchie will be appointed Papa John’s new CEO on January 1. Schnatter who will not be removed from ads and pizza boxes will retain the board chairman position. Papa John’s made the announcement Thursday.

A few months ago, Schnatter blamed kneeling NFL players for the dip in pizza sales. His company is a traditional NFL sponsor. The scandal started when San Francisco 49ers’s former quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem as a sign of protests to police violence against the blacks.

The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country,

Papa John’s founder told investors on Nov. 1.

Two weeks later, he issued an apology but it was too little too late. Schnatter had already become white supremacists’ symbol. His company said it has no ties to the group, and went as far as to say it didn’t want white supremacists to buy its pizza.

Papa John’s Should Stay Focused on Pizza

It wasn’t immediately clear after the announcement if Schnatter’s comments had anything to do with his resignation. One spokesperson said that it was the right time for the change.

After the NFL comments, the company’ s stock slipped 13 percent which reduced the founder’s stake by a whopping $84 million. His total stake in the company is worth over $560 million. The pizza company’s stock plunged 30 percent this year.

Industry analysts believe Schnatter’s resignation was a “conscious decision” by the management in an effort to help him keep a low profile after the controversy. Experts agree that the chain’s main purpose should be pizza, not politics.

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