Papa John's founder John Schnatter has resigned as chairman of the pizza chain after news circulated that he allegedly used the N-word in a conference call in May, according to The New York Times. Schnatter previously made controversial statements blaming the NFL for a drop in sales amid NFL protests and players kneeling during the national anthem. He stepped down as the company's CEO earlier this year.
According to Forbes, Schnatter was a participant in a conference call with Papa John's executives and marketing agency Laundry Service. The May call was reportedly aimed at helping Schnatter avoid public relations disasters like his widely scrutinized comments about the NFL. Schnatter allegedly used the N-word when asked how he'd distance himself from racist groups online.
"Colonel Sanders called blacks n****rs,” he allegedly said while complaining Sanders never faced backlash, Forbes reported.
In an email statement sent to Blavity, Papa John's said:
"Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting. Our company was built on a foundation of mutual respect and acceptance. One of our core company values is People Are Priority Always (P.A.P.A.) and we are committed to maintaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace for all of our corporate and franchise employees. Diversity is an essential ingredient in our pursuit of providing a better product and better service to our customers and to the communities where we operate and live. We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area where we will continue to strive to do better."
The New York Times reports Schnatter admitted on Wednesday, July 11, that his comments were “inappropriate and hurtful.”
Back in 2017, Schnatter blamed the NFL for drops in sales for not resolving the "debacle" between NFL owners and players.
Following former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick's protest, a wave of NFL players notably kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial discrimination. Many viewers and sports fans alike have since complained about the NFL and its response, mainly since no NFL team has yet signed Kaepernick and other players who have kneeled.
"The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players' and owners' satisfaction," Schnatter said, according to Bloomberg. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders."
Papa John's and the NFL made a "mutual decision" to end the league sponsorship amid public backlash for its founder's remarks surrounding the NFL and the NFL protests.
Forbes reported that Schnatter also allegedly referred to older times in Indiana where black people were dragged from trucks until they died to stress his objection to racism. But Forbes reported participants on the conference call said they were offended by his remarks regardless.
The company has stated it would appoint a new chairperson in a few weeks.