"The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players' and owners' satisfaction", he stated.
Although he didn't mention NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell by name, Schnatter insinuated that "poor leadership" was what has affected his chain's stock being down a not insignificant 24 percent this year.
Papa John's president and chief operating officer Steve Ritchie said the National Football League deal was the primary reason behind the decline in sales.
The company is reportedly predicting a sales decline for its next quarter and feels the blame falls on the NFL's shoulders. "The NFL has been a long and valued partner over the years". He specifically cited the anthem protests as the root of the problem.
This season has seen an increase in the number of players kneeling to protest racial inequality and police brutality. In the same period a year ago, sales rose 5.5 percent at established locations.
Nevertheless, this is going to embolden the Jerry Jones and Bob McNair anti-protest camp, since regardless of the merits of Papa John's claims it is an on-record impact on the league's bottom line.
Here's a new one: Papa John's declining pizza sales apparently aren't the result of Americans looking to eat healthier, or the rise of on-demand food competition like Uber Eats, or too many options for eating out, or just simple dissatisfaction with the pies that Papa John's itself puts out.
"Like Subway in recent years, Papa John's has invested in athletes to market their products", Darren Tristano, a foodservice trend expert, told CNBC via email. "Further, Lockhart said that other top sponsors have expressed similar concerns as the NFL's TV ratings slump and political battles play out in the league".