Two sources familiar with Colin Kaepernick’s grievance against the NFL told Yahoo Sports that the quarterback’s legal camp is maneuvering for a deeper dive into the relationship between Jones and Schnatter. Jones owns a stake in 120 Papa John’s pizza stores, and the sources said Kaepernick’s legal team wants to know whether the Cowboys owner played a role in motivating Schnatter to take a thinly veiled shot at commissioner Roger Goodell on a Nov. 1 earnings call. During that call, Schnatter blamed sagging pizza sales on the NFL’s response to protests. He then pointed a finger at the commissioner’s office, stating “leadership starts at the top and this is an example of poor leadership.”
In the fallout, the Papa John’s Twitter account attempted to walk back Schnatter’s remarks Tuesday, issuing an apology to anyone who thought the remarks were “divisive.”
If Jones played any part in shaping that original message, it could put him in a precarious spot with other NFL team owners. Particularly after Wednesday, when Jones was sent a letter from the NFL’s compensation committee accusing him of “conduct detrimental to the league” and “damaging antics” while trying to halt a contract extension for Goodell. Under the NFL’s constitution and bylaws, Jones could be punished by the league for detrimental actions against the league, most likely in the form of a fine or possibly stripped draft choices.
The league hasn’t publicly connected Jones to the comments from Schnatter, although multiple reports have indicated that other NFL owners suspect the Cowboys owner had a hand in the critical remarks from the pizza CEO.
A deposition of Jones in the Kaepernick grievance could go a long way in clearing up suspicions, given the latitude the quarterback’s attorneys would have to question Jones under oath. Unlike Jones, Schnatter can’t be compelled to sit for a deposition in the Kapernick grievance. However, the Papa John’s CEO could be asked to voluntarily take part in some element of the proceedings.
To this point, Jones hasn’t distanced himself from Schnatter or the comments, suggesting to the team’s flagship radio station earlier this month that he agreed with the criticisms of NFL leadership and also calling Schnatter “one of the great Americans” and “the story of America.”
That didn’t stop significant blowback against the chain on social media for criticizing national anthem protests from NFL players. But the stance also drew support from some neo-Nazis and culminated in Papa John’s being named the “official pizza” of the alt-right by far-right website the Daily Stormer. The Papa John’s stock price shaved off nearly 13 percent of its value after Schnatter’s comments.
The depositions of Jones and other NFL executives still have not been finalized, but a source told Yahoo Sports that they could begin as early as mid-December.