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Papa John's Gives Middle Finger to Neo-Nazis

By Published on .

Credit: Illustration by Tam Nguyen/Ad Age

Papa John's made a big statement with a little emoji on Tuesday, posting a middle finger graphic targeted at neo-Nazis. The brand wants to make it clear that it does not support racism or prejudice.

The tweet comes after Founder, Chairman and CEO John Schnatter blamed its weak sales on the NFL during an earnings call and criticized the league's response to player protests. This led to American neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer creating an image of a swastika out of a pepperoni pizza, which included the line "Papa John: Official pizza of the alt-right?"

Since then, the pizza chain has been trying to recover from Schnatter's statements.

On Tuesday, Papa John's tweeted that the statements on its earnings call "were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive."

See the three tweets below in full.

The brand decided to post the three consecutive tweets because "it became clear over the last week or so that our position wasn't clear," said Brandon Rhoten, CMO of Papa John's, via email.

"Yesterday's post was the first step of many in finding a positive way forward," he said,

Rhoten, who joined Papa John's nine months after it most recently renewed its NFL sponsorship, also said that the earnings call remarks were "not intended to be a statement about the right to protest or the serious social issues prompting the protests." The comments were supposed to reflect "the impact of the NFL" on its business, he said.

"Our opportunity is to diversify and apply clear attribution to our marketing to better our return on spend," said Rhoten in the email. "Which is exactly what the team has been working on since I started a few months ago. It won't happen overnight, but this is critical to our future success."

The tweets were developed by the brand's internal team, Papa John's confirmed. Laundry Service, recently named AOR for the pizza chain, does not officially start working on the business until Jan.1, 2018.

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