No reason was given for Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter stepping down from the helm, but there has been intense criticism of the iconic pizzapreneur after he blamed NFL players for the restaurant chain’s woes.

Company President Steve Ritchie will take on the role of chief executive come 2018.

Papa John’s has not given any official reason for Schnatter’s exit as CEO, but speculation is rife that his blaming NFL players dropping one knee during the national anthem at games for the company’s dropping sales is the real reason.

The company attempted to smooth over the incident at the time, even issuing an apology, but Schnatter was not just CEO: he was the name behind the brand.

Eventually, its seems things have come to a head, forcing the business powerhouse to step down and make way for a new topping for the pizza chain. Schnatter will continue to serve as Chairman of the Board.

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