Schnatter sparked controversy in November when he slammed NFL leadership over players' kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
"At the very least, it was distracting and I'm wondering whether this was board-driven or if it was John's choice", said restaurant consultant John Gordon of the Pacific Management Consulting Group.
Schnatter offered praise for Ritchie, saying "I am so proud of Steve...we couldn't have a more proven leader to guide Papa John's through its next stage of growth".
Ritchie, 43, began his career with the pizza chain in 1996 as a customer service representative and slowly worked his way up, eventually becoming a franchisee owner in 2006.
"This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago", Schnatter said on a conference call with investors.
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On Nov. 14, the company sent out an I'm-sorry tweet: "The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive".
Schnatter, 56, founded Papa John's more than 30 years ago, turning a broom closet at his father's bar into a pizza spot.
The founder of Papa John's, John Schnatter, on Thursday announced plans to step down. He took a break from being CEO between 2005 and 2008.
"He's in every ad", Gordon said. "We'll see if he steps back from that".
In his 2017 book "Papa: The Story of Papa John's Pizza", Schnatter argued that regulations are steering the United States away from the system of free enterprise he believes is crucial to the nation's success. Schnatter often appears in advertisements during National Football League games, and has credited its close relationship with the National Football League and particularly quarterback Peyton Manning for sales boosts in the past.