Papa John's apologizes for comments about National Football League player protests

Member of the San Francisco 49ers kneel and stand during the playing of the National Anthem

"Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership", he added, apparently calling out commissioner Roger Goodell.

Although the controversy surrounding the anthem protests is quickly singled out as a major reason behind the NFL's declining viewership - ratings were down 5% overall through Week 7 compared to the same point past year - network TV viewership is down overall.

Papa John's sought to distance itself from the far-right movement after its controversial response to national anthem protests from several NFL players.

But on Tuesday night, Papa John's official Twitter account published a string of tweets addressing their statements on that earnings call. We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both.

In a third tweet, the company says, quote, "We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward". Open to ideas from all.

The chain then used an emoji for the middle finger, "those guys".

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Schnatter's original comments turned his company into an emblem of the political and cultural divide in the United States, with some people advocating boycotts of Papa John's and others praising his stance.

The chief marketing officer for Papa John's, Brandon Rhoten, told Ad Age last week that his company was "talking about what next steps look like".

"The NFL has hurt us", Schnatter said.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, the company apologized to anyone who found the comments "divisive".

If there's a "negative consumer sentiment" surrounding the Papa John's relationship with the National Football League, as Schnatter claimed a few weeks ago, it'll be interesting to see if this semi-apology helps them any. "We should have followed our gut from the beginning, but followed advice not to speak up - it's time we are clear".

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