Update: Papa John’s Issues Apology Regarding Anthem Protest Controversy

apology, Naperville business law attorneyAs a business law attorney and a small business owner, I understand how easily statements by a company official can be twisted, skewed, or taken out of context to the detriment of the company. Sometimes, however, a business owner may make a comment or statement that in and of itself creates division among the company’s customer base. When that happens, it is the responsibility of the company and its leadership to make amends or risk alienating valuable customers.

A Take on a Hot-Button Issue

In a recent blog post, I talked about statements made by Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter during a conference call with investors and shareholders. Schnatter laid at least partial blame for the pizza company’s sagging sales numbers on the National Football League (NFL). In particular, he claimed that the ongoing controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem was “polarizing the customer” and the country. Schnatter went on to say that the league should have addressed the issue and taken control.

Making Apologies

This week, Papa John’s took to Twitter to address Schnatter’s comments and to apologize. In a series of tweets, the pizza company explained that the statements were meant to analyze various business factors and were not intended to be controversial. “We sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive,” one of the tweets stated.

The company clarified its position on the national anthem protests as well, saying that it believes there is a way to both honor the national anthem and create a platform to protest and address inequality. Papa John’s pledged to work with the NFL and players to “find a positive way forward.” In a parting shot, the pizza company said that it was “Open to ideas from all. Except neo-nazis.” The statement was clearly intended to distance the company from alt-right and white supremacist groups who publicly praised Schnatter’s original comments.

The apology was met the expected criticisms both for taking too long and for passively blaming “those who thought [the comments] were divisive.” The company has remained active on Twitter since the tweets were posted, responding to users and acknowledging their concerns.

The Dangers of Alienating Customers

Very few companies can afford to divide its customer base, as those who are offended by a company’s position on a particular issue may never return. If your behavior or that of another official within your business is threatening the loyalty of your customers, an experienced Naperville business attorney may be able to help. Contact The Gierach Law Firm for a confidential consultation today.



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