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Papa John’s will no longer be an NFL sponsor

NEW YORK — Papa John’s is ending its recently stormy role as an official sponsor of the NFL.

Officials at the pizza chain said Tuesday that the two sides agreed to end the relationship, which became strained last year when its founder John Schnatter criticized NFL leadership over national anthem protests by players.

But the company based in Louisville, Kentucky, is not divorcing itself from the league altogether. It says instead it will focus its football marketing efforts on 22 of the league’s 32 teams and its star players.

Schnatter blamed slowing sales growth at Papa John’s on the outcry surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem. The company later apologized for the remarks and Schnatter stepped down as CEO at the end of last year.

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