Update: Papa John’s response to the postgame embrace is below.
Imagine for one extraordinary moment, you’re Peyton Manning. You just won the Super Bowl. Naturally, you’re excited. In your moment of glory, under the spotlight of millions of football fans, you weave through the frenzy of media, fans, teammates, and NFL executives to reach out to one of the most important people in your life…. the Papa John’s guy?
Super Bowl viewers were stunned after Sunday’s exciting game when legendary Broncos quarterback — who may or may not have just played his last football game ever — leaned over scores reporters and cameras to give Papa John’s founder John Schnatter a kiss on the cheek. Before his wife. Before his kids. Even before his father, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, or brother, current NFL quarterback, Eli. What the…???
The Internet was all too quick to express their disbelief about the bro-on-bro victory love.
Manning’s relationship with Papa John’s goes deeper than a few free slices. The quarterback, who signed a five-year, $96 million contract with Denver in 2012, stars in commercials for the pizza chain, and owns a whopping 32 Papa John’s franchises in the Denver area.
After the Broncos victory, football fans were glued to Manning’s reactions for any emotional hat tip the 39-year-old quarterback might announce his retirement. Instead, Manning left fans even more perplexed by kissing the Papa John’s guy to celebrate his big win.
Manning refused to confirm his plans for the future, but he took flack for name-dropping another sponsor — Budweiser — multiple times during post-game interviews. “I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family … I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight,” he told CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson shortly after the Manning-Papa John’s kiss.
Marketable Manning earns an estimated $12 million a year from endorsement deals from other brands including Nationwide insurance, Buick, DirecTV and Nike.
UPDATE: Papa John’s gave this statement in reaction to ‘the kiss’: “As part of the Papa John’s family, not only is Peyton a successful franchisee but he’s also a trusted friend who exemplifies quality on and off the field. From play maker to pizza maker, he’s always carried himself with honor and integrity and we look forward to working with him for many years to come. The entire Papa John’s family wishes Peyton and his teammates congratulations on winning Super Bowl 50.”
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