As its sales continue to lag behind competitors, Papa John's executives say it may be time to re-consider the pizza chain's partnership with the NFL. Earlier this month, founder John Schnatter said he believes that player protests during the National Anthem are contributing to the league's declining ratings, which is in turn affecting the bottom line of his company--nevermind the recent resurgence of Domino's as a major player in the pizza market after a successful brand renewal or the continued dominance of Little Caesar's in the bargain pizza market.

Company executives weigh in

WSJ reports that Papa John’s Chief Marketing Officer Brandon Rhoten said that the company may have to take a second look at its TV partnerships if sales continue to fall behind. CEO Steve Ritchie also weighed in, saying that the company is watching the situation closely to see if a "solution" to the anthem protests develops. If it doesn't, he says the company may have to find other avenues that work better for them.

The "solution" the company wants is for the whole issue to go away and for the protesting players to start standing for the anthem again. That likely isn't going to happen anytime soon - at least not as long as you have the likes of Texans owner Bob McNair comparing NFL players to inmates.

That's not to mention that there are a number of other factors (streaming, saturation, CTE fears, etc.) that are likely also contributing to the league's ratings problem rather than just the protests.

Cowboys owner has vested interest

Who is one of the largest owners of Papa John's franchises? You guessed it: Jerry Jones.

Jones has also been an outspoken critic of the anthem protests and is a staunch Donald Trump supporter.

At one time considered a player-friendly owner, Jones has come under fire this year for siding against the protesting players. If he believes that the league's decline in ratings is also affecting the sales of his 100-plus Papa John's franchises throughout Texas, then he's even more likely to continue speaking out against the protests.

He's also not especially happy with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the moment. Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott is in the middle of an on-again, off-again suspension saga that Jones believes has been fundamentally unfair - a slight he attributes specifically to Goodell. So it's possible that Jones is also looking to leverage the protest situation and Papa John's partnership to potentially force Goodell out.