Papa John has had a lot on his plate lately, and it’s not pizza. As you’ll recall
, “Papa” John Schnatter, the founder and CEO of the third most popular pizza delivery chain (behind Domino’s and Pizza Hut), drew criticism for his apparent opposition to Obamacare, citing a necessary rise in costs and decrease in employee hours to provide the health care the law requires. Shortly after Obama’s re-election, however, Schnatter clarified his claims, stating that they were taken out of context. Of course, this didn't stop people from citing the recent deal he struck with the NFL to offer two million free pizzas during this year’s football season. How can he afford to give away two million pizzas but not provide insurance to the employees who helped make him the millionaire he is today?
A lot of it might have to do with the recent deal he struck with Denver Broncos quarterback and new Mile High sensation Peyton Manning. Released from the Colts after missing a year due to a neck injury, Manning sign a lucrative contract with the Broncos, all but guaranteeing the boys in orange and a blue a spot in the playoffs. But that’s not all. In a widely publicized move, Manning and Schnatter revealed that the one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game will open 21 franchise Papa John’s restaurants in the Denver area. Gotta do something after football, right?
This relationship with Schnatter, who appeared with Manning in a commercial, marks the third year Papa John’s has served as a sponsor for the National Football League. While this partnership is something that many feel should be celebrated (hey, free pizza!), others feel that it’s a slap in the face to the hard-working Americans who work for Schnatter’s company. In one article, Forbes writer Rick Unger calls for Peyton Manning to forgo cutting back employee hours and to offer affordable health care to every employee at each of his 21 locations. He also believes that, in light of Schnatter’s recent comments, the partnership between Papa John’s and “our uniquely American game” is decidedly anti-American. Of course, Schnatter would disagree, saying in the same forum his seemingly reprehensible remarks were given that he planned on giving all full-time employees health insurance, while at the same time hoping it encourages other popular restaurant chains to do the same to “level the playing field.”
But it doesn’t matter. Papa John’s will continue to make a ton of money (they have experienced exponential growth over the past several years), and with their partnership with the NFL and their newest celebrity spokesperson Peyton Manning, the odds are that the company will continue to grow. What does this mean for Peyton Manning? Well, if the Obamacare fiasco continues to pop up in the news well after Manning opens his 21 restaurants in Denver, then it’s likely that the star quarterback will have to answer questions concerning the company’s health insurance plan, especially if it becomes known that stores have begun to cut employee hours.
What do you think? Do you think the partnership with Manning was a good move? Should we give Schnatter the benefit of the doubt? Given Papa John’s position in the Great Pizza Wars of the 21st Century, it’s certainly a GREAT move from a financial standpoint. Manning is celebrated across the land, with rival teams standing in awe over his football prowess and charisma, so having such a high-profile figure, especially one who hasn’t played for a year and is tearing up the field upon his return, is no doubt just what Schnatter needed to deflect some of the criticism surrounding his statements on Obamacare.