Papa John's Pizza founder John Schnatter will step down as CEO next month, a few months after he criticized NFL leaders over players' protests during the national anthem.

Schnatter will be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on Jan. 1, the company said in a press release Thursday.

Schnatter blamed slow sales at Papa Johns earlier on the national anthem controversy. His comments were praised by white supremacists. The company, an NFL sponsor, later apologized.

Schnatter has long been the face of the company, appearing in television commercials and on the company's pizza boxes.

The company hasn't decided whether Schnatter will stay on as its spokesperson, according to an Associated Press report. Ritchie did not say if the NFL comments played a role in Schnatter stepping down, saying only that it's "the right time to make this change."