Peyton Manning, John Schnatter and Roger Goodell walk into a bar…

Peyton-Manning-Papa-JohnsFor hard working blue collar fans of the NFL with a case of the munchies on a Sunday afternoon, there’s no better snack to hit the spot than fresh, hot pizza. And what better pizza place to ring up than the NFL’s official sponsor, none other than John Schnatter’s brand, Papa John’s?

No doubt you will see these cheesy commercials — I know, bad pun, but I digress. You’ve seen the ones, featuring back and forth between Papa John himself and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning — who is usually acting like it was really his idea to give away millions of free pizzas, and reluctantly Mr. Schnatter agrees with this “brilliant” business strategy. Not only is Peyton Manning a paid spokesman for Papa John’s, but he is now also the proud owner of 21 franchises throughout the Denver area.

What bothers me most about this NFL / Papa John’s partnership is the blatant ignorance and greed on display by Mr. Schnatter. He has publicly stated that “Obamacare,” if not repealed, will force him and his franchisees to cut employee hours and raise prices to make up for all the “lost revenue.”  The NFL’s willingness to sign someone like him on as an official sponsor, in the face of many of their fans, really shows that they don’t care about anything but their bottom line.

A Politico report from last year drummed up this beauty of a Schnatter quote from a conference call he had with Papa John’s shareholders:

“We’re not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry, and if Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

Is this really the image the NFL wants to be in bed with? I have to ask, if it’s so easy for Papa John’s to give away a couple million free pizzas, why is it so hard to provide a better living wage and health care to your employees? You don’t even have to do the math to know that 2 million free pizzas at about 12 to 15 bucks a pop could go a long way towards covering those costs he so desperately claims his business model can’t support.

I personally find his stance on the healthcare law to be absolutely reprehensible. When he announced that the only interests he truly cares about are those of his shareholders, it just cut at the heart of the problem. To him, like with too many corporate CEOs these days, workers are nothing more than numbers that count against a bottom line. Whether they are healthy and happy is really of little concern, and if he can squeeze every last drop of profit by cutting hours and making sure employees don’t get healthcare, then so be it. He won’t see it from his “house.”

This past June the NFL announced that they won’t assist with promoting Obamacare, but thankfully that didn’t stop the Baltimore Ravens from jumping on board. The Ravens have signed on to help promote the drive to get people signed up in the state of Maryland, with Lt. Gov Anthony Brown announcing:

“Research shows that 71 percent of the uninsured population in Maryland have watched, attended or listened to a Ravens game in the past 12 months and the partnership will provide Maryland Health Connection with the opportunity to reach and engage fans while making them aware of the new opportunity they have for health coverage beginning this fall through the health insurance marketplace.”

A Ravens spokesman has said that more details will emerge on the partnership soon, but the overall aim of their involvement is to “connect with Maryland residents about the importance of developing a health coverage game plan.”

As disappointing as it is that the NFL has rejected the president’s invitation to jump on board in support of the Affordable Care Act, it’s equally disappointing to see the NFL continue its partnership with someone like “Papa” John Schnatter, when a good portion of both of their “target demographics” could greatly benefit from having healthcare. Especially when seeing that 71% of Maryland’s uninsured have watched or listened to the Ravens and at least some of them should benefit from these PSA’s. Honestly, I think that number could be less of an anomaly and more of a trend across the entire NFL fan base. I am not saying it’s the NFL’s responsibility to push healthcare on those that support their product, but it would be refreshing to see them take a more proactive stance in the health of not only their players, but their fans as well. When you think about it, it’s a win/win for the NFL, considering that the longer their fans live the longer they will likely monetarily support the product.

This is something that the Ravens franchise owners seem to get, so why is it the rest of the league is reluctant to sign on?

Michael Wunderlich

Mike Wunderlich is a single father originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania currently residing in Richmond, VA.He is the founder of Center Ice News (a popular Facebook group dedicated to hockey news), and a self proclaimed professional appreciator of music and art. You can follow him on Twitter @mwunderlichFP.


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