12/21/2017 18:35 EST

Papa Tossed! Pizza Chain Orders Up New CEO.

Papa John's has parted with its longtime CEO and founder John Schnatter.

Papa John’s CEO is papa gone.

The popular pizza chain, known for featuring founder “Papa” John Schnatter in its commercials, announced Thursday that Schnatter will step down as CEO at the beginning of next month.

The decision comes amid falling sales, which Schnatter blamed last month on protesting National Football League players, who he said were hurting profits. 

Despite Schnatter having issuing a clarification and apology for the comments, his dismissal means the storm came full circle ― no matter how you slice it.

Danny Moloshok / Reuters
John Schnatter, founder and chief executive of Papa John's Pizza, waves goodbye.

While the pizza chain’s future was temporarily tossed in the air, it seems to have landed in loyal hands. The company will promote longtime employee and former president Steve Ritchie to the position of CEO.

“I am so proud of Steve,” Schnatter said in a company statement announcing the change. “He has excelled at every job he’s ever held at Papa John’s – from being an hourly customer service rep, to a delivery driver, store general manager, director of operations, franchisee and most recently President.”

For the good of Papa’s shareholders, hopefully Ritchie can still deliver the dough.