John Schnatter, the founder and face of Papa Johns was caught using the N-word during a media training session this past May. The incident was later confirmed by Schnatter himself in an emailed statement sent to Forbes. He has since resigned as chairman and face of Papa John’s.
The conversation was being handled between Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service. The word in question came about during a role-playing exercise for Schnatter if he were to face “difficult issues”. On the call, Schnatter was asked how he would avoid racist groups online. He then responded by saying “Colonel Sanders, the Founder of KFC called blacks n----s,” before saying that Sanders never faced backlash for it. Back in November, Schnatter stepped down from the Chief Executive position after being upset with the NFL over protests made by players against The National Anthem; blaming the league for slowing down sales over at Papa John’s.
He also reflected on his own life in Indiana where, he said, “people would drag African-Americans from trucks until they died”. Individuals on the call were offended by his racially insensitive words and actions. Following the incident, Laundry Service owner Casey Wasserman completely terminated the company’s contract with Papa John’s.
In an emailed statement, Schnatter confirmed that the allegations were in fact true. “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true. Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
In an interview with San Francisco news station with KRON 4, Schnatter blamed the company’s marketing agency for over blowing the story. He also stated that using the word in the training session does not make it a “slur”.
“It wasn’t a slur. It was a social strategy and media planning and training and I repeated something that somebody else said,” adding, “we’re not going to say that we don’t use that kind of language or vocabulary. Sure it got taken out of context, and sure it got twisted, but that doesn’t matter. I hurt people’s feelings. That’s what matters here. And for that, I’m sorry and I’m disappointed in myself that something like that could happen. So, yeah they tried to extort us and we held firm. They took what I said and they ran to Forbes and Forbes printed it and it went viral”.
A Papa John’s spokesperson confirmed to the BBC that it will erase its founder’s image from all advertising. The pizza chain later said that it would appoint a new chairman. Papa John’s is the world’s third-largest pizza chain with more than 350 outlets in the UK and 4,900 restaurants worldwide. Shares in Papa John’s were up to more than 3.1% following the announcement of Mr Schnatter departing as chairman.