Pizza Hut is the new sponsor of the NFL, marking a new chapter in the league’s history. Since 2010, the league was sponsored without controversy by Papa John’s, until a kerfuffle last fall when CEO John Schnatter claimed that the then-frequent sight of players kneeling during the national anthem was depressing sales. “The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” he said in November. Meanwhile, Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed — Pizza Hut’s parent company — stated that the political displays hadn’t affected Pizza Hut’s sales at all, leading to a couple of easy cracks about how Pizza Hut was part of the #resistance, or something.
Hut Hut. 🍕🏈 pic.twitter.com/XAdSLHw1OX— Pizza Hut (@pizzahut) February 28, 2018
But while the switch from the company with the anti-kneeler stance to one known for its Book-It literacy program may seem like a step in the right direction, the change may not be as promising as a Twitter joke. According to Open Secrets (a nonpartisan group that tracks the flow of money in politics), the PAC of Yum Brands, Inc. contributes overwhelmingly to Republican candidates and causes. A 2015 Bloomberg report put the percentage of their political donations that go to the GOP at a staggering 99 percent, slightly higher than the 86.8 percent of donations that Papa John’s contributed to the party during the same time period.
Creed’s statement suggested Pizza Hut didn’t publicly hold the same ire for Colin Kaepernick and his compatriots as Schnatter apparently did — but considering the PR blowback that Papa John’s experienced, it’s more likely he was trying to avoid the conversation altogether. The fact is that most people don’t pay too much attention to the politics of the food they consume, until they’re made explicit; more than a few left-leaning citizens are totally fine with shopping at Whole Foods, even as Amazon continues to be massively anti-labor. Pizza Hut can put up a neutral facade, and everybody gets what they want. The search for a mass market DSA-approved fast food pizza chain continues.