*By Michael Teich* Nike's [decision](https://cheddar.com/videos/is-kaepernick-a-no-lose-proposition-for-nike) to feature Colin Kaepernick in its latest ad campaign isn't the only sponsor controversy that's hit the NFL this season ー and Pizza Hut has filled the hole left by Papa John's withdrawal. "It's a direct invitation to our competitors' customers, Papa John's customers, and any of our competitors, to come join Hut rewards," said Marianne Radley, the chief brand officer for the pizza chain in the U.S., in an interview on Cheddar Tuesday. The company, a subsidiary of Yum Brands, will mark its debut as the official pizza sponsor of the NFL when the 2018-19 season kicks off Thursday, offering a new rewards program targeting football fans. Pizza Hut took over after several missteps by Papa John's former CEO. Founder John Schnatter had [blamed](https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/05/09/papa-johns-tried-to-blame-the-nfl-for-bad-sales-that-clearly-wasnt-the-issue/?utm_term=.f2ecbb02fcef) players' decision to kneel for the anthem ー sparked, incidentally, by Kaepernick ー for leading to a decline in TV viewership of NFL games and his brand's meager sales. The drama didn't stop there. Schnatter [resigned](https://cheddar.com/videos/papa-johns-founder-resigns) in July from his position as chairman after he reportedly used racial slurs during a conference call. He'd given up the CEO spot in January. While the NFL couldn't save Papa John's from declining sales, Radley said her company's strategy will yield better results by championing the real heroes of the game. "You'll see a marked difference from the previous pizza sponsor of the NFL to the stance that we're taking," she said. "It's about celebrating the fans." For full interview [click here](https://cheddar.com/videos/pizza-hut-capitalizes-on-papa-johns-missteps-with-nfl-sponsorship).

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