John Schnattner — better known as “Papa John,” patriarch of the famous pizza chain — is stepping down as CEO of the company after months of turmoil following his criticism of the NFL in the wake of player protests.
Schnatter will be replaced as chief executive by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on Jan. 1, the company announced Thursday. Schnatter, who appears in the chain’s commercials and on its pizza boxes, and is the company’s biggest shareholder, remains chairman of the board, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The pizza chain is an official sponsor of the NFL, and Schnatter has been featured in an array of commercials with legendary quarterback Peyton Manning. But the company has been in hot water after Schnatter placed part of the blame on the company’s lagging sales on the national anthem protests.