Papa John's apologizes for comments made about National Football League players

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Papa John's responded: "He helped write this post - yes".

Papa John's statement on Twitter comes amid a sales slump for the pizza chain.

A company representative said on an earnings call earlier this month that declining viewership of NFL games, due to players protesting racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem, was to blame for their declining sales.

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"This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago", Schnatter reportedly said during the November 1 call. "The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country".

Papa John's late Tuesday chose to tweet a middle-finger emoji aimed at neo-Nazis who are-reportedly-co-opting the chain pizza.

The comments spurred a backlash on social media, made the company the butt of jokes on late night shows and forced it to distance itself from neo-Nazi groups. While it's not required, Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it clear he wants players to stand.

This comes after Schnatter questioned the league's leadership for not preventing protests during the national anthem.

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In a three-tweet mea culpa, the Louisville-based company did a 180 and said it supported players' right to protest.

"The NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders".

Schnatter's original comments turned his company into an emblem of the political and cultural divide in the United States, with some people advocating boycotts of Papa John's and others praising his stance. Papa John's president and chief operating officer Steve Ritchie has said that research has found that Papa John's has been the most recognized sponsor associated with the NFL for two years running, which he said means the company's performance can track with that of the league.

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