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John Schnatter, the CEO of Papa John’s and the company’s public face in TV commercials, will step down from his position, the pizza chain has announced.

COO Steve Ritchie will replace him on Jan. 1, but Schnatter will remain chairman of the board, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Papa John’s pizza commercials have become a staple of NFL TV coverage, with Schnatter often appearing in ads alongside stars such as Peyton Manning, J.J. Watt and Joe Montana.

Last month, Schnatter stirred controversy when he blamed Papa John’s falling sales and tanking stock prices on the NFL’s handling of players who protest during the national anthem.

The pizza maker’s stock has lost more than 30 percent of its value since the beginning of 2017, and Schnatter believed declining sales were related to the NFL’s decline in ratings.

“The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” Schnatter declared on a company conference call in November, as reported in Bloomberg. “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders. Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”

Papa John’s stock prices fell an additional 13 percent in the immediate aftermath of Schnatter’s comments, and the company apologized via Twitter:

Skeptics saw the hand of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in Schnatter’s original comments. Jones, who owns more than 100 Papa John’s franchises, has been a staunch opponent of the anthem protests, even promising to bench any of his players who kneel for the anthem.

“The main thing I want to do is make it real clear: There is no room here,” Jones said in October, according to Yahoo! Sports. “If it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you’re disrespecting the flag, we will be non-supportive of each other. We will not disrespect the flag.

“If there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period. We’re going to respect the flag and I’m going to create the perception of it.”

Jones had praised Schnatter in the wake of his comments on player protests, calling the Papa John’s CEO “one of the great Americans” in an interview on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

“When he speaks, I listen,” Jones said.

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