Papa John’s has told white supremacists not to buy its pizzas after a neo-Nazi website endorsed the popular American pizza delivery chain.
The controversy emerged after Papa John’s, the official pizza of the NFL and one of the league’s major sponsors, said ongoing player protests against police brutality and racial injustice during the national anthem were damaging its sales last week.
For over a year some NFL players have chosen to sit out of the national anthem to protest the killing of black people by police officers and other forms of racial injustice.
Papa John’s founder and CEO, John Schnatter, responded by saying: “The NFL has hurt us. We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”
While Papa John's was accused of racism and lambasted for making bad pizza for the remark by many, neo-Nazis monopolised on the comments.
The Daily Stormer, an American neo-Nazi and white supremacist site, went so far as to proclaim Papa John’s the official pizza of the so-called “alt-right” - a political movement which has been accused of racism, antisemitism, and misogyny and of sharing an ideology with far-right parties such as the French National Front.
The publication shared a photo of a pizza with pepperoni arranged in the shape of a swastika alongside the caption "Papa John: Official pizza of the alt-right?" and “Sieg Heil Pizza” – the latter being a reference to a chant used during the Nazis’ mass rallies.
“This might be the first time ever in modern history that a major institution is going to be completely destroyed explicitly because of public outrage over their anti-white agenda,” Adrian Sol, a Daily Stormer writer, wrote in reference to the NFL.
Mike Cernovich, a far-right firebrand and conspiracy theorist, thanked the franchise – which is the third largest pizza takeout chain in the US - on Twitter and branded Papa John’s “America’s pizza”.
But the senior director of public relations at Papa John’s, Peter Collins, said the firm was surprised by the promotion.
“We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it. We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza,” Mr Collins said in a statement.
The Daily Stormer, which has called itself “The World’s Most Genocidal Republican Website,” has been identified as the “top hate site in America” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
It endorsed Mr Trump’s presidential bid in 2015, posting a story titled “Heil Donald Trump – The Ultimate Savior” after Mr Trump proposed introducing a total ban on Muslim immigration. The site publishes content denigrating Jewish people, Muslims, people of colour and women.
It was rejected by a number of domain registrars in August 2017 after it prompted outrage for posted a scathing article about the woman who was killed at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. It subsequently moved to the dark web.
This is by no means the first time the far right has caused a brand to outrightly reject being associated with them. Last November, the editor of The Daily Stormer Andrew Anglin declared New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People.”
The blogger wrote: “I’m a Nike guy. Or rather, I was. It’s time to get on-board with New Balance now. Their brave act has just made them the official brand of the Trump Revolution.”
His remarks came after one of the company’s top executives criticized former President Barack Obama and gave President Trump his backing. “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us and frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction,” New Balance’s vice president of public affairs, Matthew LeBretton, said.
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