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Why are people calling Papa John’s “the official pizza of the alt-right”?

Jessica Booth
Why are people calling Papa John’s “the official pizza of the alt-right”?

Papa John’s pizza found itself in the midst of a major political controversy this year. The company also earned itself a questionable reputation in the last few weeks, leading many to wonder why, exactly, people are calling Papa John’s the “official pizza of the alt-right.”

It all started in November, when the CEO of the company, John Schnatter, blamed declining pizza sales on the Take A Knee movement, which saw football stars like Colin Kapernick taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America. Schnatter implied that the movement was to blame for NFL ratings slumps, which in turn, hurt pizza sales (because apparently people order pizza while watching football, though there has been no hard evidence to back up any of these correlations).

His full comments read,

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership. The NFL has hurt Papa John’s shareholders. This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago. The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.”

While many social media users viewed the comments as racially insensitive (because protesting racial injustice is more important than pizza sales), white supremacists had a different reaction. They vowed to make Papa John’s the official pizza of the alt-right and praised the company for the comment. The alt-right’s affinity for Papa John’s also gained fuel from the fact that Papa John’s leadership donated to the Trump campaign and has publicly condemned Obamacare.

However, Papa John’s was quick to respond to the label, saying in an official statement that, “We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it. […] We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.”

Despite Papa John’s disavowal of the alt-right, the label seemed to stick, and the controversy didn’t help sales. On December 21st, it was revealed that Schnatter would be stepping down as CEO as of January 1st, and Twitter users have mixed reactions.

Schnatter has yet to make an official statement about stepping down from his role.