A week that began with reports that Papa John’s founder Papa “John” Schnatter somehow worked an overt hard-r racial slur into a conference call with a marketing company is ending with the removal of Schnatter’s name from virtually everything on which it had previously been emblazoned. There are only so many of these left at this point, but the University of Louisville announced on Friday that it would begin the work of prying Papa’s brand off their football stadium and, uh, The John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the Louisville College of Business. He had already withdrawn from the school’s board of trustees on Wednesday, and had stepped down from the school’s Athletic Association back in April.
After Wednesday’s rash of slur-driven disassociations—MLB’s “Papa Slam” promotion and Schnatter’s status as his own company’s chairman of the board were over by Thursday morning, and Friday has seen a steady drip of teams dropping promotional partnerships with Papa John’s—there was only so much left of Schnatter to erase. On Friday, Papa John’s announced that it would remove its founder’s signature rictus from its logo; stocks rose 3.1 percent on the news, after having risen earlier on the news that he was stepping down as CEO. Louisville, where Schnatter had installed himself as a sort of Blowhard Rich Dude At Large, looked like his last redoubt, if only because it takes a lot for an institution to separate itself from rich people with ardent interests in that institution’s sports teams. But now one of his last public safe spaces is no longer. Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is now just Cardinal Stadium, or will be once the school and Schnatter work out a contractual clause that gave Schnatter and only Schnatter the right to remove his name from the stadium. Presumably some other honeybaked swell will replace Schnatter in that distended business school compound name; the Schnatter Center’s webpage is already 404-ing. The man himself is still welcome to show up at basketball games looking like a garbage bag full of cognac, of course, but everyone at those games will know what he’s about if they somehow didn’t before.
Curiously or not, the University of Kentucky’s John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise is still carrying his name, and its website is still the place to go if you’d like to read stories like “If You Really Want To Help The Poor, Shop At Wal-Mart” or “Paid Sick Leave Will Hurt The Most Vulnerable.” Or, actually, it’s one of a nearly infinite number of places to go if you’d like to read those sorts of stories, all of which are funded by Schnatter’s peers in the salty rich guy community. Schnatter is exceptional among his class of aggrieved billionaires for his love of delivering extremely earnest to-camera pledges that he will never let you down when it comes to 100 Percent Premium Toppings, but not really in many other ways.
Like so many of his fellow Alpha Job Creators, Schnatter is more than happy to spend his money on reminding people how much money he has, or ensuring that his complaints—about whatever, there’s always something—are heard first and loudest, or promoting ideas that will keep him rich and prevent him from having to share too much of what he has with people who have less. Like so many of his fellow Alpha Job Creators, Schnatter really doesn’t appreciate being asked to do more than that. The June conference call that triggered all this was with a marketing firm tasked with helping Schnatter rebuild his brand after his pissiness over NFL player protests during the national anthem led him into some brand-tainting associations with reactionaries and creeps. His hard-r slur was part of his answer to the marketers’ question of “how he would distance himself from racist groups online,” and was embedded in a broader complaint about what a double standard it was that Colonel Sanders Could Say It.
“I have no evidence and nobody has any evidence that John Schnatter is a racist,” the former Louisville trustee Bill Stone told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “He’s accomplished a lot of things and created a lot of jobs. I think we have got to measure people by the sum total of their life, not a remark.” As Schnatter’s name and face are erased from virtually everything he ever paid to put them on, it’s worth acknowledging what Stone got right—Schnatter did accomplish a lot, and far more than his bummy-ass pizzas would suggest should have been possible. And then, in the last year, he threw a good deal of that away because he just would not, could not stop being his own sour self. It’s not a single “remark” or bad moment that undid all this so much as it was Schnatter’s insistence on his own rancid and self-serving values and proud inability to consider the interests or experience or dignity of anyone else ahead of his own grievances. Here, again, the only thing that separates him from his peers is that he is somehow facing any consequences for it.