Several NFL sponsors have contacted the league’s front office to express their concerns with declining TV ratings and the political unrest that has engulfed the league, for the first 7 weeks of the season. Long-time sponsor Papa John’s (PZZA) has told the league that in-game sales have fallen, since President Trump’s first comments on NFL player protests, back on September 22nd. USAA, another official league sponsor, has confirmed that it too has been in contact with the league office about the issues. Despite 45’s call for the league to suspend players that fail to stand for the national anthem, the NFL has taken the position that it will allow its players to freely express their beliefs as they see fit.
Howie Long-Short: According to a new Harris Poll, PZZA has surpassed Pizza Hut (YUM) as the most popular pizza chain brand; but that popularity isn’t correlating with revenue growth. While YUM is up 17% this year, PZZA is down 21% YTD. Analysts expect PZZA to report Q3 revenues have grown 1.5% (to $428.73 million) YOY; with Pizza Hut (YUM) expected to report 10.5% growth (to $626.42 million) over the same period. Unfortunately for PZZA shareholders, popularity doesn’t guarantee success.
Fan Marino: League sponsors are contractually bound, so there is no immediate threat of revenue loss for the NFL. Any existing concerns are related to a potentially negative financial impact on future negotiations. The current collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2020 season, so the league isn’t going to be able to force players to stand before that. To be clear, there are some billionaire owners who defend the player’s right to protest. 49ers Owner Jed York was quoted as saying “Our country is more important than a slight economic impact.” At least one of these guys has his priorities in line.
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