The NFL has a new favorite pizza joint.
A day after Papa John’s said it was ending its sponsorship deal with the league, Roger Goodell announced Wednesday that Pizza Hut has stepped in as the new official pizza of the NFL.
“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,” the NFL commissioner said in a statement, per CNBC.
Pizza Hut’s deal is for four years and will have the company fork over more dough than Papa John’s was paying, according to a Sports Business Journal report.
Papa John’s, which reportedly had three years remaining on its deal, said in a joint statement with the NFL on Tuesday that the split was “mutual.”
The relationship between the two giants began to fracture over the last year, with former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter blaming the league’s handling of players protesting during the national anthem for the company’s decline in sales.
“The NFL has hurt us. We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this,” Schnatter said in November. “Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”
Schnatter had said the issues that emerged from the protests should have been “nipped in the bud” when Colin Kaepernick began kneeling on the sideline a year and a half ago. Schnatter eventually apologized for his remarks and stepped down as chief executive Jan. 1, though he remained with Papa John’s as a chairman.
Some team owners reportedly believed that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who owns a stake in over 100 Papa John’s locations, encouraged Schnatter’s attack of the league.
Nevertheless, the NFL seems to have secured a win. As America’s largest pizza chain, Pizza Hut has more than twice as many locations as Papa John’s with more than 7,500 stores, giving the league greater exposure.
Pizza Hut’s new deal will begin April 1, with its marketing campaign kicking off at the NFL draft, which takes place April 26-28 at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Becker writes for the New York Daily News