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DiGiorno is dragging Papa John’s on Twitter over the delivery chain’s sales slump

  • Papa John's founder John Schnatter blamed social justice protests at NFL games for the pizza delivery company's flagging sales.
  • Because Papa John's is the official pizza company of the NFL, he thinks customers are punishing the delivery outfit in a guilty-by-association scenario.
John Schnatter founder and ceo of Papa Johns
JB Lacroix | WireImage | Getty Images
John Schnatter founder and ceo of Papa Johns

On Wednesday, Papa John's founder "Papa" John Schnatter complained on an earnings call that the pizza delivery company's flagging sales were due to ongoing social justice protests at National Football League games. Frozen pizza purveyor DiGiorno saw this as an opportunity to go on the offensive, and so the company's official Twitter account has been dragging Papa John's for the last 24 hours or so.

Schnatter's reckoning leads him to the conclusion that real, pizza-loving Americans don't want to see athletes kneeling during the national anthem. Because Papa John's is the official pizza company of the NFL, he thinks customers are punishing the delivery outfit in a guilty-by-association scenario. The protests "should have been nipped in the bud" last year, said Schnatter, who donated money to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. The comments (which were pure speculation, by the way) sent Papa John's shares tumbling 11 percent.

DiGiorno took notice.

Hold on, it isn't exactly clear that the above tweet is referring to Papa John's. It could be about any pizza competitor, or it could just be an instance of DiGiorno boasting about its product. Frozen pies don't have the best reputation, but DiGiorno has long claimed it can stand up to the big delivery chains.

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Oh, yes, that makes it pretty clear who DiGiorno is subtweeting. Papa John's famous tagline is "Better ingredients. Better Pizza." DiGiorno smells blood in the water.

This tweet sheds a little light on DiGiorno's apparent disdain for Papa John's. It seems that on June 22, 2016, DiGiorno tweeted, "Keep your friends close and your pizza closer. #WednesdayWisdom" Then, three days later, Papa John's posted the same tweet, save for the hashtag. DiGiorno followed up with this sick burn:

Back to present day, here's the first tweet DiGiorno fired off Thursday morning:

This is ruthless. The freezer-pizza seller has even overhauled its Twitter bio as part of the attack.

Meanwhile, barring some replies to compliments from fans and customer service requests, Papa John's hasn't tweeted anything since October 27.

Is DiGiorno going all in on PJ's because of that lifted tweet back in the summer of 2016? Or is this just an example of finding any edge possible in the cutthroat pizza game? Does DiGiorno hope to lure disgruntled NFL fans who might be ditching Papa John's because of its association with the league? Others in the industry have spoken out against Schnatter's logic, so maybe this is DiGiorno's way of siding with the protestors and clapping back against what could be a harebrained theory for a sales slump.

If it's the latter, DiGiorno... welcome to the resistance.

Updated: Papa John's has broken its silence, and the gloves are off. "Frozen pizza = the pizza equivalent of a participation trophy," reads the company's #NewTwitterBio. It would seem Papa John's identifies the type of people who are upset over the NFL protests as the same people who rail against participation trophies and today's coddled youth, and the delivery chain is trying to lure those folks back in with this dogwhistle.

The DiGiorno-Papa John's Twitter war is turning ugly, and there's no telling when it will end.