How was your Wednesday? It was likely better than that of Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter, who resigned from just about every position he still held after it emerged that he used the n-word during a [checks notes] sensitivity training session.
According to a Forbes report, last month Papa John took part in a conference call with a marketing agency brought in to prevent Papa from shooting himself in the foot again, as he did in November when he claimed that NFL player protests were hurting his pizza sales and [checks notes again] “white supremacists praised Schnatter’s comments.” Papa soon stepped down as CEO and the NFL ended its sponsorship deal, but the damage was done.
In June’s conference call, Papa was asked “how he would distance himself from racist groups online.” (Normal question to ask a pizza man.) Papa replied by complaining that “Colonel Sanders called blacks n——-s”—no one is quite sure where he got this from—and KFC never got in trouble. He also noted, for some reason, that where he grew up people used to kill black people by dragging them behind trucks. (Normal answer from the pizza man.)
The pizza dominoes quickly started to fall:
- Papa John stepped down from the University of Louisville’s board of trustees. He had previously resigned from the Louisville Athletics Association Board.
- MLB indefinitely suspended its “Papa Slam” promotion with the company, where fans could get pizza discounts after grand slams.
- Papa John’s Pizza shares tanked by nearly five percent on Wednesday, wiping out $96.2 million in market value and reaching a two-year low.
- Papa John resigned as chairman of the board of Papa John’s.
On Wednesday afternoon, Papa John emailed a statement to Forbes, confirming their account of the conference call and apologizing:
“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,” he said. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
Papa John’s links to his beloved Louisville are not completely severed, not yet. The football stadium is still named Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, and through what ESPN calls a “complicated” arrangement, the naming-rights deal is with Papa himself and not his company. And according to the contract, if Papa John leaves Papa John’s, he can rename the building.