Nearly a year after Papa John's founder criticized NFL protests and used the word "n****r" on a conference call, Shaquille O'Neal is gearing up to help the pizza franchise flourish again.
HuffPost reports the retired NBA legend will join the company's board of directors, becoming the first Black person to serve on the board. O'Neal intends to purchase nine locations of the Papa John's pizza franchise around Atlanta, Georgia, as part of the deal.
O'Neal has been a highly reputed investor for decades, owning major franchises such as Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, fast food joints and Shaquille's restaurants in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Atlanta.
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The C-suite at Papa John's believes having O'Neal as an ambassador will help ignite a shift in the company's relationship with the general public and will pay the former basketball star $8.25 million for a three-year endorsement deal, reports CNN.
"Shaquille has an excellent entrepreneurial background, including as a restaurant franchise owner, and is a natural creative marketer," said Jeff Smith, the company's chairman of the board of directors.
Since the announcement was made, Papa John's stock has already risen nearly 5 percent.
The pizza franchise has suffered from slow sales and declining revenues following two scandals that rattled the entire establishment in early 2018.
On January 1, founder John Schnatter stepped down from his position as CEO following comments he made about NFL protesters, blaming the nonviolent Take a Knee movement on his company's lack of customers. He also stated that the sports organization lacked leadership and insisted something should be done about the men exercising their freedom to protest, reported Blavity.
Following these statements, Papa John's received an onslaught of support from white supremacists, who felt the corporation's values aligned with the white power agenda.
This view gained more traction after an audio recording of Schnatter referring to Black people as "n*****s" was released this past summer, as Blavity reported. That recording ultimately led to Schnatter being forced out of his company.
Since the founder's departure, the company has unsuccessfully tried to improve its financial outlook through a diversity campaign, CNN reports. O'Neal said he's proud to be a part of the chain's efforts to rebrand itself.
"Papa John's is building a better culture, and I want to be a part of improving the [company] from the inside," O'Neal said.
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