Per Jonathan Maze of Nation's Restaurant News, Papa John's founder John Schnatter said sales are down due to "negative consumer sentiment" regarding the company's relationship with the NFL.
Schnatter also called the NFL "an example of poor leadership," according to Maze.
A constant topic of discussion during the 2017 NFL season has been players' decision to protest during the national anthem.
That led to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sending a letter to all 32 NFL teams expressing his preference that players stand for the anthem.
The NFL hasn't enacted a rule forcing players to stand, but there is a clear schism between players and NFL leadership on the issue.
Per Rovell, Schnatter said the NFL's issues with its players should have been "nipped in the bud" 18 months ago.
It was announced by Nielsen after Week 6 of the NFL season that NFL ratings are down 7.5 percent in comparison to last season, according to Rovell.
Schnatter chalked up last year's decline to the presidential election but said this year's drop is due to the "polarizing" controversy, per Maze.
Maze also reported that Papa John's' sales are down six percent.
Papa John's is deeply rooted in the NFL since it has a deal with the league and 23 of its individual teams, according to Rovell.
Former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is a Papa John's franchisee who also appears in commercials for the company.
In exchange for pulling current ads, Schnatter said the NFL has given Papa John's additional future spots moving forward.