Papa John’s is no longer the official pizza of the NFL.
CEO Steve Ritchie said on the company’s earnings conference call that the league and the company mutually decided it was in their best interests for Papa John’s, which became the official pizza of the league in 2010, to give up the designation.
The brand is the first NFL sponsor to leave in the midst of its deal. The company said on the call that there was no additional cost for undoing the deal.
“The NFL and Papa John’s have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport,” the league and company said in a joint statement.
The company will continue to invest in the NFL through its local-market deals with 22 teams. The company will no longer have presence at the league’s big events, including the draft and the Super Bowl, which will be given to the new pizza sponsor. The league is expected to have a replacement before the 2018 season begins.
It was nearly four months ago that Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, then also the CEO, said players who staged protests during the national anthem hurt business. The company pulled the NFL shield off its commercials during game broadcasts and took the shield off its pizza boxes.
“We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this,” Schnatter said at the time.
Twelve days later, after the company’s stock had dropped 12 percent, Schnatter apologized for his comments.
Schnatter, who was the face of the brand, was later replaced as CEO on Jan. 1. The company’s chief financial officer, Lance Tucker, will leave after this week to become CFO at Jack in the Box.
Sales for Papa John’s were down 3.9 percent across the country from October through December versus the same time period a year before, the company announced Tuesday, due to promotions that didn’t pan out and negative consumer perception. The company had positive comparative sales for the 14th consecutive year, narrowly accomplishing the mark in 2017 by growing 0.1 percent.
Shares were down 7 percent in after-hours trading as of 5:09 p.m. ET.
Quinton Dunbar, Detroit Lions reach 1-year deal
Dunbar joins the Lions after an injury-plagued season with the Seattle Seahawks, who added him last March only to see him play in six games — all starts — because of a knee problem that required season-ending surgery.
Dunbar, 28, finished 2020 with one interception and five passes defended.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes had said the secondary was an area of focus for his team, which also signed free-agent cornerback Corn Elder last week.
“The corner position — and I can say it with more than just the corner position — is a position that we’ll continue to address now throughout the entire process, up until the draft and even after the draft, if need be,” Holmes told reporters last week, according to The Detroit News. “But it’s definitely a position that is not gonna be overlooked or ignored. It is a young group that we have now. I really like the group that we have, in terms of the youth and the upside. … But that is a position that we’ll continue to look to address now and through the draft.”
The Seahawks acquired Dunbar for a fifth-round pick in a March trade with the Washington Football Team. He missed most of the offseason program and the start of training camp while dealing with armed robbery charges that were later dropped due to insufficient evidence.
Dunbar made 25 starts over five seasons with Washington, which signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2015. He began his NFL career as a wide receiver, then was converted to cornerback as a rookie. He has 10 career interceptions and a sack in his six seasons.
Washington signed Dunbar to a three-year, $10.5 million contract after the 2017 season. The Seahawks inherited the final year of that deal, which paid Dunbar roughly $3.34 million in 2020.
ESPN’s Brady Henderson contributed to this report.
Minnesota Vikings CB Jeff Gladney turns self in on assault charge
Police said the charge stems from an incident on Friday when Gladney allegedly assaulted a 22-year-old woman.
“We are aware of Jeff’s arrest and are gathering additional information,” the Vikings said in a statement Monday. “We take this matter very seriously, as the reported allegations are extremely disturbing. At this time we will have no further comment.”
Gladney, 24, was a first-round draft pick out of TCU in 2020 and started 15 games for Minnesota last season.
What trading for Sam Darnold means for the Carolina Panthers’ future
They also faced the possibility of being shut out of getting one of the top quarterbacks at No. 8 in the upcoming draft after San Francisco traded with the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 pick, meaning the top three picks (Jaguars, Jets, 49ers) likely will be signal-callers.
So the Panthers turned to Darnold, giving up a sixth-round pick this year and second- and fourth-round picks in 2022 for a quarterback the Jets had, for all practical purposes, given up on.
What does the deal mean for the Panthers? Will it turn them into a playoff contender and allow Darnold to live up to the expectations cast upon him coming out of USC? Let’s examine:
How much does the addition of Darnold improve the Panthers?
This isn’t Tom Brady going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so don’t pencil in plans for a Carolina run at the Super Bowl just yet. This is settling for the best the Panthers could get after other options disappeared.
Will Darnold be better than Bridgewater, who was 0-8 last season in games in which he had the ball on the final possession with a chance to tie or win? The simple answer is the Panthers can’t be much worse off.
From the perspective of Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer, Darnold is an upgrade. He’s a player with good mobility and leadership that he liked in 2018 coming out of college.
Fitterer said if Darnold turns into what he believes he can be, “for this price, it’s definitely worth the gamble.”
Note, he said gamble.
For Darnold, this means finally being surrounded by a supporting cast that can help him reach his potential and an offensive coordinator in Joe Brady, who proved with Joe Burrow at LSU he can turn a good player into a great one.
Darnold will have no excuses after this season, getting to play with Christian McCaffrey, arguably the best all-purpose back in the league. He’ll also have solid wide receivers in DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, who both topped 1,000 yards receiving in 2020. Darnold is familiar with Anderson, who was his most dangerous receiver in his first two seasons with the Jets.
The Panthers upgraded some at tight end by signing Dan Arnold in free agency, and they’re probably not finished there with the draft a possibility to upgrade further.
The Panthers plan to discuss exercising the QB’s fifth-year option with Darnold’s agent, per league source, which means it likely is to happen. That would give him in essence two years to prove himself in Carolina.
This likely is a bigger win for Darnold than for the Panthers, who were initially looking for more of a veteran presence to make them a playoff contender this season. If the gamble pays off, it’s a win-win for both.
What does this mean for Bridgewater?
That his days with the Panthers are essentially over — even though Joe Brady called him a franchise quarterback early last season. Trading him is the best option, with Bridgewater set to count $23 million against the 2021 cap, but that will be a tough sell. He can be released with a post-June 1 designation and save $7.9 million, but Carolina would take a $15 million hit in dead money this year and $5 million in 2022.
Worst case, Bridgewater will remain on the roster and offer his veteran expertise. Fitterer didn’t rule out that, but he didn’t exactly endorse it.
Bridgewater has always been a team player and overcame a career-threatening knee injury in Minnesota in 2016 to become a starter again. If anyone can handle being a backup, he can.
The best scenario for both parties would be for Bridgewater to restructure his deal to make him more tradeable. Fitterer said he has talked to Bridgewater and his agent and they’re all on the same page, but he didn’t clearly define that page.
“We’re going to find the right place for him, whether it’s here or someplace else,” Fitterer said.
How does this alter the Panthers’ draft approach, especially at No. 8 overall?
It would be stunning now if the Panthers used that pick on a quarterback with Will Grier and P.J. Walker also on the roster, although Fitterer didn’t rule out Carolina drafting a quarterback should the right player fall to them.
What this trade does is give them the flexibility to upgrade at possibly offensive tackle or tight end — two big needs — if Oregon’s Penei Sewell or Florida’s Kyle Pitts falls to them. That would also give Darnold a better chance to succeed and upgrade the overall offense long term.
“He’s highly competitive,” Fitterer said of Darnold. “He’s smart enough. I really like what he can bring to us with his ability to push the ball down the field.”
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