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Pizza Hut replaces Papa John’s as official pizza of the NFL after kneeling controversy

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Pizza Hut is now the new, official pizza of the NFL.

Wait, how did that happen?

Papa John's — the former official pizza of the NFL — on Tuesday announced that they would be ending their partnership with the league, a decision that the company and NFL called "mutual."

"We will shift our marketing from the broader NFL sponsorship," a spokesperson for Papa John's said on Tuesday.

In a joint statement the NFL and Papa John's added, "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."

John Schnatter — the company's founder and former CEO — added to the NFL's national anthem kneeling controversy when he said in November that the public's division on the anthem protests hurt the company's sales.

"The NFL has hurt Papa John’s shareholders," Schnatter said. "The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country."

He added, "The NFL has hurt us. We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this."

He announced the following month that he would be stepping down from the company as CEO.

So Pizza Hut is taking over. What are people saying about it?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday acknowledged the new partnership in a statement.

"With a focus on family, friends and fun, Pizza Hut has the creativity we are looking for in a partner and we look forward to working together with them to make the at-home NFL experience more exciting than ever for our fans," Goodell said.

The brand-new deal kicks off with the 2018 NFL Draft, which is set to take place in April.

Artie Starrs, president of Pizza Hut U.S. said, "Pizza Hut has a history of bringing more entertaining food and experiences to the pizza occasion and we plan to continue that through our exclusive partnership with the NFL. NFL stadiums are packed every week but tens of millions of fans are also watching the game at home."

"We have an unmatched ability to bring those fans closer to the sport thanks to the power of our 7,500 restaurants and 150,000 football-crazed team members," Starrs added. "The capacity for what's possible is endless and that's going to make this league partnership great fun for Pizza Hut, the NFL and everyone who loves pizza and football."

One last thing…
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